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Here I Am
by Jonathan Safran Foer


Overview -

A monumental new novel from the bestselling author of Everything Is Illuminated and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close


In the book of Genesis, when God calls out, Abraham before ordering him to sacrifice his son, Isaac, Abraham responds, Here I am.  Read more...


 
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More About Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer
 
 
 
Overview

A monumental new novel from the bestselling author of Everything Is Illuminated and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close


In the book of Genesis, when God calls out, Abraham before ordering him to sacrifice his son, Isaac, Abraham responds, Here I am. Later, when Isaac calls out, My father before asking him why there is no animal to slaughter, Abraham responds, Here I am.

How do we fulfill our conflicting duties as father, husband, and son; wife and mother; child and adult? Jew and American? How can we claim our own identities when our lives are linked so closely to others ? These are the questions at the heart of Jonathan Safran Foer s first novel in eleven years a work of extraordinary scope and heartbreaking intimacy.

Unfolding over four tumultuous weeks in present-day Washington, D.C., Here I Am is the story of a fracturing family in a moment of crisis. As Jacob and Julia Bloch and their three sons are forced to confront the distances between the lives they think they want and the lives they are living, a catastrophic earthquake sets in motion a quickly escalating conflict in the Middle East. At stake is the meaning of home and the fundamental question of how much aliveness one can bear.

Showcasing the same high-energy inventiveness, hilarious irreverence, and emotional urgency that readers loved in his earlier work, Here I Am is Foer s most searching, hard-hitting, and grandly entertaining novel yet. It not only confirms Foer s stature as a dazzling literary talent but reveals a novelist who has fully come into his own as one of our most important writers.

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Details
  • ISBN-13: 9780374280024
  • ISBN-10: 0374280029
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publish Date: September 2016
  • Page Count: 592

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Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
  • Review Date: 2016-06-27
  • Reviewer: Staff

Great-grandfather Isaac Bloch's voice opens Foer's intensely imagined and richly rewarding novel. What follows is a teeming saga of members of the patriarch's family: Isaac's son, Irv, a xenophobic, self-righteous defender of Israel who claims that "the world will always hate Jews"; his grandson, Jacob, achingly aware that his decade-plus marriage to Julia is breaking down; and Jacob and Julia's son Sam, whose imminent bar mitzvah may be cancelled if he doesn't apologize for the obscene material discovered in his desk at Hebrew school. The Blochs are distinctively upper-middle-class American in their needs, aspirations, and place in the 21st century. Foer excels in rendering domestic conversation: the banter and quips, the anger and recrimination, and Jacob and Julia's deeply felt guilt that their divorce will damage their three sons. Things are bad enough in the Bloch family when world events intervene: a major earthquake levels the Middle East, spreading catastrophic damage among the Arab states and Israel. In an imaginative segment, Foer depicts the reaction of the media when Israel ceases helping its Arab neighbors to save its own people and the Arab states unite and prepare for attack. The irony is evident: Irv, the fearmonger, has been proven correct. Foer (Everything Is Illuminated) fuses these complex strands with his never-wavering hand. Throughout, his dark wit drops in zingers of dialogue, leavening his melancholy assessments of the loneliness of human relationships and a world riven by ethnic hatred. He poses several thorny moral questions, among them how to have religious faith in the modern world, and what American Jews' responsibilities are toward Israel. That he can provide such a redemptive denouement, at once poignant, inspirational, and compassionate, is the mark of a thrillingly gifted writer. Agent: Nicole Aragi, Aragi Inc. (Sept.)

 
BookPage Reviews

A cautionary tale of love and war

Has Jonathan Safran Foer spent the 12 years since his last novel solely exchanging email LOLs with actress Natalie Portman? Not quite. Foer’s much-anticipated third novel, Here I Am, has arrived. And thankfully, whatever his weaknesses as an email writer, Foer is a heck of a novelist. 

Foer writes with crisp sentences, dexterous paragraphs and unswerving honesty—but he’s never completely won me over. His explosive debut, Everything Is Illuminated, and his second novel, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, were worthy reads, but labored to the finish like middle-distance runners in the final stages of a marathon. By contrast, Here I Am is frisky from the starting gun through the tape. Large in physical size and theme, it follows two dire situations unfolding simultaneously: the not-so-unusual implosion of a Jewish-American family and, ho hum, the destruction of the Middle East. 

Simply written yet complicated in the emotions it evokes, Here I Am can be construed as a cautionary tale.

Jacob and Julia Bloch live in Washington, D.C., with their three sons. Their marriage, in subtle decline for a while, free falls when Julia finds a series of X-rated texts on Jacob’s phone. At the same time, Jacob’s cousin and nephew arrive from Israel for the upcoming bar mitzvah of the Blochs’ oldest son, Sam. But no sooner do they hit town than an earthquake demolishes the Middle East, fracturing the region’s notoriously thin veneer of peace. Jacob, a man who seems almost paralyzed when faced with a decision of any consequence, must make choices that will alter—or even end—his life and the lives of his family. 

Simply written yet complicated in the emotions it evokes, Here I Am can be construed as a cautionary tale. And no, the lesson is not to hide your secret cell phone better. Without giving too much away, both the personal and political stories remind readers of the value of alliances.

Numerous parallels between Jacob Bloch and Foer mark this as a very personal novel. It also may be a great novel. Foer, just 25 when Everything Is Illuminated hit the shelves, is no stranger to the backhanded compliment, “man-child.” At 39, his writing has taken on a sly maturity that feels fresh and new. Here I Am is destined to be a polarizing, much-discussed novel. Love it or hate it, it is well worth your time.

 

This article was originally published in the September 2016 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

 
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