Here I Am

By Jonathan Safron Foer

8.5/10
(8.5/10)

571 pages

What’s it about?
Jacob Bloch is a middle-aged Jewish man living with his wife Julia and their three sons in the DC area.  This book covers 4 weeks in Jacob’s life.  We see Jacob’s inner turmoil as he struggles with the life he has, versus the life he had hoped to have. As the pressure builds in Jacob and Julia’s relationship, a conflict also builds in the Middle East. Is it possible for an individual to completely be there for another person? Is it possible for a nation to take care of itself, and also fulfill it’s responsibility to the rest of the world?  These are just a couple of the questions this novel presents.

What did it make me think about?
I have found all of Jonathan Safron Foers’ novels challenging.  To clarify, Foers’ novels are not difficult to read, but they challenge me to think.  This novel explores Jewish angst to a degree I have not seen.  Jacob’s mind is always questioning, always anxious, and sometimes all this angst becomes exhausting as a reader. In my humble estimation this book just misses the mark of greatness.  The book is filled with thoughtful questions,  great writing, and a decent plot, but it sometimes feels buried underneath too many superfluous pages.  Having said that- it is still a very good book.

Should I read it?
Patience will be required if you choose to read this book, but you will be richly rewarded if you get through all 571 pages. This novel was thought-provoking, heartbreaking, humorous, and always insightful. Jacob Bloch would wear me out as a friend, and often wore me out as a literary character, but I won’t soon forget him.

Quote-
When a book has a dozen quotes that are achingly beautiful-you know the author is special. I finally settled on these two quotes.

“But he didn’t say anything, and neither did she. Not because the words were deliberately withheld, but because the pipe line between them was too occluded for such bravery. Too many small accumulations: wrong words, absences of words, imposed quiet, plausibly deniable attacks on known vulnerabilities, mentions of things that needn’t be mentioned, misunderstandings and accidents, moments of weakness, tiny acts of shitty retribution for tiny acts of shitty retribution for tiny acts of shitty retribution for an original offense that no one could remember. Or for no offense at all.”

” ‘Closeness’, he said surveying the congregation. ‘It’s easy to be close, but almost impossible to stay close. Think about friends. Think about hobbies. Even ideas. They’re close to us – sometimes so close we think they are part of us- and then, at some point they aren’t close anymore.  They go away.  Only one thing can keep something close over time: holding it there.  Grappling with it. Wrestling to the ground, as Jacob did with the angel, and refusing to let go. What we don’t wrestle we let go of.  Love isn’t the absence of struggle.  Love is struggle.’ “

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