Here I Am – Jonathan Safran Foer 

Rating: 7/10

Here I Am is the story of a modern Jewish family. The core family consists of a husband and wife, Jacob and Julia, and their three kids. Integral parts of their family include Jacobs parents and grandpa as well as his Israeli cousins. Argus the dog also plays a leading role in several chapters.

This review is going to contain a lot of spoiler alerts.

The scene opens with Sam, the eldest child, being reprimanded for writing a list of bad words. The rabbi accuses him, calls his mom and dad into a meeting, and threatens to cancel Sam’s barmitzvah unless Sam apologizes. Meanwhile, readers are witness to Julia’s inner dialogue, and confused as all get out. Julia jumps around, frustrated with her husband and the fact that she’s not enjoying her day off, but what is going on?

Foer delves into thoughts, jumping back and forth between characters’ desires, thoughts, feelings, and realities. I found it confusing and hard to follow. Why do I care about what the characters are imagining? On the one hand, it reveals their inner desires, but on the other hand, it spends time recounting information about a plot that never transpired, so readers are left wading through reality and sub-reality, the undercurrents of thought.

My biggest complaint with this story is that Foer jumps around through unrealistic plot points so quickly. He goes through family life to affairs to this online video game called “Other Life” to a model UN to an earthquake leading to war in Israel. The plot is all over the place, and in the end, I’m left wondering what was the point of it all? In the end, everyone still continues on, except for Argus, who we all knew was dying. It’s a story of life and death, and it’s the truth of people just wanting to be seen.

I spent over 15 hours of my life listening to this audiobook, and I don’t think I would have read this book all the way through if I weren’t hiking all day every day. I also didn’t realize until after I finished that this author also wrote Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, which I also didn’t like when I read it.

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