Tuesday, December 20, 2016


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Here I Am, Jonathan Safran Foer, Farrar Straus and Giroux, 2016, 571 pp

Summary from Goodreads: 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 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 very meaning of home--and the fundamental question of how much life one can bear.

My Review:
At its heart, Jonathan Safran Foer's new novel is the story of a marriage unraveling. That the couple are upper-middle-class American Jews in the early 21st century only adds to it richness.

Jacob and Julie's initial passion turns out to be unsustainable in the face of parenthood, disappointed careers and, possibly most of all, the unrealistic demands they have placed on each other. While some readers and critics have complained about the novel being autobiographical, I say there are legions of married couples who find themselves unable/unwilling to fulfill their marriage vows but how many can write about it as well?

Others express the criticism that Foer has taken on too much for one novel: marriage, children, religious identity, Israel, etc. For me the kids were possibly the best feature in the story and I already knew he could do kids right from reading Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. I also wonder how any serious novelist can write about contemporary times without including the spiritual and political aspects of life. They are so intrinsically bound together in these times.

I was impressed, I found the book easy to read, it challenged my mind, and the characters, if rarely admirable, were complex and fascinating. I was thinking about it for days after I finished reading. 

(Here I Am is currently available in hardcover on the shelf at Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)


  1. I would take "complex and fascinating characters" any time.

  2. I agree that it was a challenging and complex story and Foer handled the telling of it beautifully, I thought. And I, too, am still thinking of the book more than a week after completing it. It was a very satisfying read and one that I expect to long remember.

  3. I didn't realize Foer had been married to author Nicole Krauss. Autobiographical novel -- nothing wrong with that. I haven't read him before but I did see his book's movie adaptation of Extremely Loud etc. which I thought was moving, though it's been awhile.

    1. Extremely Loud is my favorite of his but they are all good.

  4. Sounds Interesting - I like the "complex and fascinating characters" they tend to be touching :)