Here I Am

By: Jonathan Safran Foer

Read time: 2 mins

This was my first book by Foer, and to be completely frank, it’ll take some convincing to get to to read another one. I mean, I might go for another Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close type of story, but only in a similar movie form.

The first half of this book was really enjoyable. I was pleasantly surprised to see such well orchestrated dialogue, with a healthy amount of wit and snark. The story follows a wealthy Jewish family through a tumultuous period in their lives. Eldest son about to have a bar mitzvah, at the same time the parents are navigating rifts in and degradation of their marriage.

Having gone through a divorce myself, and knowing first-hand the pain of catching your spouse in an affair, there were many chapters that made my heart quite heavy. Details were uncannily similar, right down to the discovery of a secret cell phone by complete happenstance. I guess it goes to show how most humans are innately similar.

I also peered into the story from the perspective of a parent. The way Julia and Jacob spoke to their children was of particular interest. I’ve always told myself I wanted to have real conversations with my children. I don’t want to coddle them. I don’t want to lie to them. I want to teach them how to think for themselves, and provide resources for learning rather than blind indoctrination. I think the Blochs did this well, even if not perfectly.

The second half of this book, went off the rails for me. Maybe the length just got to me (600 pages), or maybe it was a lack of understanding of the Jewish community, but it didn’t click for me. I really felt there was enough of a story in the imploding marriage that bringing in a global disaster and humanitarian crisis was a bit much. I can see the attempt to connect the Blochs Jewish faith and tell a story in the similarities between the imploding marriage and the (literal) imploding Israel, but it just wasn’t interesting to me.