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Everything Is Illuminated | [Jonathan Safran Foer]

Everything Is Illuminated

Jonathan is a Jewish college student searching Europe for the one person he believes can explain his roots. Alex, a lover of all things American and unsurpassed butcher of the English language, is his lovable Ukrainian guide. On their quixotic quest, the two young men look for Augustine, a woman who might have saved Jonathan's grandfather from the Nazis. As past and present merge, hysterically funny moments collide with great tragedy, and an unforgettable story of one family's extraordinary history unfolds.
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Publisher's Summary

Humor and pathos are deftly woven together in this remarkable New York Times best seller that has won sweeping critical acclaim. USA Today calls Everything Is Illuminated "a hilarious yet heartbreaking tale of family and discovery".

Jonathan is a Jewish college student searching Europe for the one person he believes can explain his roots. Alex, a lover of all things American and unsurpassed butcher of the English language, is his lovable Ukrainian guide. On their quixotic quest, the two young men look for Augustine, a woman who might have saved Jonathan's grandfather from the Nazis. As past and present merge, hysterically funny moments collide with great tragedy, and an unforgettable story of one family's extraordinary history unfolds.

Don't miss Jonathan Safran Foer and Martin Amis at The New Yorker Festival.

©2002 Jonathan Safran Foer; (P)2002 Recorded Books, LLC

What the Critics Say

"An impressive, original debut." (Publishers Weekly)

"Nearly everything about this remarkable book is illuminated....Although there's plenty of lyrical acrobatics here, with exquisite magic realism intermingling with Alex's uproarious narration, it's the emotional depth of the characters that stands out." (Booklist)

"Read it, and you'll feel altered, chastened -- seared in the fire of something new." (The Washington Post)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.6 (681 )
5 star
 (218)
4 star
 (175)
3 star
 (132)
2 star
 (87)
1 star
 (69)
Overall
3.5 (302 )
5 star
 (95)
4 star
 (72)
3 star
 (68)
2 star
 (34)
1 star
 (33)
Story
4.1 (303 )
5 star
 (150)
4 star
 (80)
3 star
 (40)
2 star
 (19)
1 star
 (14)
Performance
Sort by:
  •  
    Deborah Shrewsbury, NJ, United States 10-09-09
    Deborah Shrewsbury, NJ, United States 10-09-09 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
    5
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    188
    3
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    FOLLOWING
    0
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    "The worst book I've ever read"

    This was the worst book I've ever read. I kept plodding through it, hoping that it would redeem itself. But it never did. The story was uninteresting and not at all humorous, although I do believe that it was supposed to be.

    Also just a comment for Audible - this is introduced as "audible kids" and this is not a childrens' book! It threw me off at first.

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Melinda Shoreline, WA, United States 11-18-10
    Melinda Shoreline, WA, United States 11-18-10 Member Since 2009

    I love literary fiction and I occasionally delve into non-fiction. I love books that are suspenseful and am really into well-told stories.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    280
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    80
    39
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    19
    0
    Overall
    "Why can't you give a book ZERO stars?"

    I don't care if I don't garner a lot of "helpful" reviews here... I just need to vent. JSF is nobody. I HATE his writing style and he doesn't get extra points for only being 25 when we published this. The story of Bume is lifted STRAIGHT out of the story of Remedious the Beauty from 100 Years of Solitude, and he even uses the same literary trick by naming everyone the same name (fortunately, they all have stupid nicknames). Man, what an awful book and I also hated the other one about 911, so it this brat makes you swoon, go for it... but I don't think he writes well, I don't think he is some sort of prodigy, i just think that he has a big thesaurus next to him and uses it too much! What a GAWD-awful book! Oh! And the rip off the the "Wild a Crazy Guys" that Steve Martin and Dan Ackroyd did 30 years ago ... they called... they want their characters back! Horrible, horrible horrible dreck.

    10 of 14 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer United States 09-27-14
    Amazon Customer United States 09-27-14 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
    7
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    62
    16
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    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "if you like locker room humor..."
    What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

    Where do I start. The character from Ukraine, his version of English is so artificia; so many large words that a non-native speaker would never know but they made for more locker room humor. This was clearly written for boys.


    What could Jonathan Safran Foer have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

    see above comments


    What do you think the narrator could have done better?

    I think the narrator was fine


    You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

    no, which was so disappointing because i found his other book, "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" beautiful and very moving,


    Any additional comments?

    I should have heeded the warnings of other reviewers.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Diane Parkville, MO, United States 10-24-11
    Diane Parkville, MO, United States 10-24-11 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    32
    3
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    FOLLOWING
    0
    2
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Tiring"

    This story was very original and and was good in theory. However, trying to listen to it for hours on end was a battle. If someone told me the story in a synopsis, even if I listened to a short excerpt, I would think that I would enjoy this book. However, I got so tired of listening to Alex, the Ukranian guide with a unique use of the English language. Also, I lost my appreciation of the stories from centuries ago as they were just very odd. The narrarator did a good job with the accents, etc. I just think the material got very old, very quickly. I did enjoy the sections of the modern journey that were written through the eyes of Jonathan, the American traveler. It probably would be better in print, as you could skim over some sections. I absolutely refuse to give up on a book, and the ending really was good. It just took quite a while to get there....

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michael East Peoria, IL, United States 06-27-06
    Michael East Peoria, IL, United States 06-27-06 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
    307
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    688
    77
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    FOLLOWING
    8
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    Overall
    "I am not illumined either"

    Our hero could have cut out the entire story about the lives of his ancestors in medieval Poland/Ukraine. The hero's own trip to Ukraine was interesting as a memoir, and the Ukrainian translator's English was clever. Also the story of the World War 2 - Nazi invasion, and the lives of the characters at that point could have made a good story on its own, but the book, especially the Jewish stettle storyline from 1730 till 1940 came to naught and really has no continuity, and quite frankly is not clever and is downright confusing. Essentially, don't waste your currency on this nod, comrade. Maybe he can rewrite the book with all of the interesting stuff and make it into a novel about Ukraine from WW2 to modern day. He could develop the Grandfather character's life, and it would be worth reading (listening to), I suggest a revision, or a new novel altogether. There is potential here, but this book is far from reaching it.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jennifer Toronto, Ontario, Canada 06-16-05
    Jennifer Toronto, Ontario, Canada 06-16-05
    HELPFUL VOTES
    7
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    1
    1
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    "Disappointing"

    The story alternates between the modern-day search in Russia for the woman who saved the protaganist's grandfather, as told in Roget's Thesaurus English -- this story is funny, gripping, and wonderful to listen to -- and an imagined history of the protaganist's family, starting in the 1700's. These parts are just bad. At first I thought that they were a joke ... meant to be the protaganist's attempts at bad writing ... bt it goes on and on ... and after a while you realize that he's serious. If I were reading the book I could have skipped over those chapters, but listening, you are forced to go through them. That I did is a testament to how brilliant the modern-day journey part was.

    7 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joanna SAN DIEGO, CA, United States 03-11-13
    Joanna SAN DIEGO, CA, United States 03-11-13 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    1
    1
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
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    Performance
    Story
    "Well written, at times funny but very dark"
    What would have made Everything Is Illuminated better?

    I was looking for just a glimmer of hope for humanity, for a little bit of deliverance from the darkness and hopelessness of the story. I found none. Humanity is portrayed as an ugly, hopeless, cruel and all-together miserable lot. Life is viewed as a disappointing and hopeless experience with a sense of humor as its only deliverance. This is a very dark and depressing view and the book is not a good read for someone looking for a soul-soothing story.


    What was most disappointing about Jonathan Safran Foer’s story?

    The story portrays life as being hopeless, ugly, cruel. The story ends abruptly with no resolution. It also is very pessimistic, negative, dark - a hurtful read in many ways.


    Which character – as performed by Jeff Woodman and Scott Shina – was your favorite?

    Definitely Alex


    If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from Everything Is Illuminated?

    The terrible scene when the woman gets shut in her wumb


    Any additional comments?

    For anyone with a delicate and sensitive disposition: do not read.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jan H. Wolfe 12-15-11

    Theatrician

    HELPFUL VOTES
    8
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    68
    9
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    2
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    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Premise is funnier than product"

    The humor of the poor translator trying to keep up with the story is good for the first hour. The humor (?) in the distant family history relies too much on scatalogical and sexual humor, which wears thin almost immediately. The book doesn't get better as you go. I stopped after 2 hours.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Marka Chicago, IL, USA 04-08-05
    Marka Chicago, IL, USA 04-08-05
    HELPFUL VOTES
    8
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    2
    2
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    "What happened to the last few minutes."

    Some parts of this book were so funny I had to cover my mouth to keep from laughing out loud on my commuter train. But the last few minutes of the book were gone, it just went sraight to the credits. I was very disappointed to not hear the complete ending.

    8 of 14 people found this review helpful
  •  
    S Salt Lake City, UT, USA 06-01-05
    S Salt Lake City, UT, USA 06-01-05
    HELPFUL VOTES
    4
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    1
    1
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    "Couldn't bear it past disc 3"

    If you might enjoy listening to Latka Gravas (Taxi) beat a dead horse for hours on end, this is the book for you. The punch line is, I guess, the Ukrainian's excessive reliance on a thesaurus, finding "ammusing" equivalents to conventional expressions, which gets "geriatric expeditiously." Maybe it gets better mid-way, but I wasn't willing to suffer through another hour hoping for a miraculous appearance of substance.

    4 of 7 people found this review helpful
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