Jonathan Safran Foer is a decorated author. His breakout novel, "Everything Is Illuminated", was awarded the National Jewish Book Award as well as a Guardian First Book Award. "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" was also critically acclaimed, and it utilized interesting visual writing techniques that help the reader further understand the plot. In his latest novel, "Here I Am", Foer dives even deeper into a theme that he has carried throughout his novels: the nature of human relationships and the influence of interaction in our world.
"Here I Am" is a novel that everyone should read. The plot centers around a Jewish family, in which the parents' marriage is falling apart, each member of the family (including extended) is fighting their own battle, but they all remain strung together by their wavering connection to their faith. Foer's storytelling is characteristically philosophical; it's by no means a light read, but it makes the reader sit back and apply the ideas within the book to their own lives.
Personally, I found that there were three great takeaways from this book: the importance of communication, an enlightening look at the Jewish faith, and a reflection on what it means to be ourselves. Most of us have no idea what it's like to be married, but we've always been told that "communication is key" in relationships, but what we didn't understand was the depth of communication that is required. Foer does a fantastic job of showing that in the marriage of Jacob and Julia, or rather highlighting their lack of communication beyond the surface. This aspect of the book has greatly influenced the way I communicate in my life. My boyfriend and I read this book together after hearing Foer speak at Cleveland State about it, and it was one of the greatest decisions we've ever made. Reading it together allowed for open discussion about the plot, and the idea of communication within the book as well as within our own relationship. I've noticed that we make greater efforts to express how we're feeling to each other, and we openly discuss how we communicate. It was especially important to read at the beginning of our relationship because it made us reexamine everything we thought we knew about expressing ourselves, creating a more solid foundation to build on. As Foer says, "Words don't fail us, time does."
When I began this book, I knew next to nothing about the Jewish faith, but Foer expertly incorporates it into the plot. I learned Jewish traditions, holidays, and more about the issue of the state of Israel. Jewish family life is also at the center of the plot, and with that I got to see how central familial bond is to Jewish people. Because I have no religious affiliation, it was an eye-opening experience.
Foer's novel also poses the question, Are you living your life as yourself? His characters make you wonder if you have been honest with yourself, or if you've been holding yourself back. If you're not living exactly how you want to be, the characters want you to realize it before it's too late. As the novel explores each person's private life and how it influences their interactions with others, the reader can't help but analyze their own life. It will motivate you to live your best life.
Foer's latest novel "Here I Am" is the reality check we all need. In the age of social media, it provides the necessary slap in the face that directs our attention to the relationships we have, the state of them, but most importantly, it reinvigorates the idea of deeper communication between people, faith, and ourselves.