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Publisher's Summary

"Imagine a novel as verbally cunning as A Clockwork Orange, as harrowing as The Painted Bird, as exuberant and twee as Candide, and you have Everything Is Illuminated.... Read it, and you'll feel altered, chastened - seared in the fire of something new." (Washington Post)

With only a yellowing photograph in hand, a young man - also named Jonathan Safran Foer - sets out to find the woman who might or might not have saved his grandfather from the Nazis. Accompanied by an old man haunted by memories of the war, an amorous dog named Sammy Davis, Junior, Junior, and the unforgettable Alex, a young Ukrainian translator who speaks in a sublimely butchered English, Jonathan is led on a quixotic journey over a devastated landscape and into an unexpected past.

As their adventure unfolds, Jonathan imagines the history of his grandfather’s village, conjuring a magical fable of startling symmetries that unite generations across time. As his search moves back in time, the fantastical history moves forward, until reality collides with fiction in a heart-stopping scene of extraordinary power.

"A rambunctious tour de force of inventive and intelligent storytelling.... Foer can place his reader’s hand on the heart of human experience, the transcendent beauty of human connections. Read, you can feel the life beating." (Philadelphia Inquirer)

©2019 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company (P)2019 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company

Featured Article: 15 Essential Jewish Authors to Hear in Audio


The Jewish diaspora is vast, diverse, and full of stories. In recent years, Jewish authors have published books about everything from love, identity, and history to crime, romance, and what it means to come of age in the modern world. While this list is by no means complete, these 15 Jewish authors have written some of the most fascinating Jewish literature, and they represent a deep catalog of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry in a range of genres.

What listeners say about Everything Is Illuminated

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Hilariously funny, emotionally powerful

At its best, this is an extraordinary book with an exceptional reading performance. It is, however, two different stories that are ultimately linked. One story is at first hilariously funny, until it turns into an incredibly emotionally powerful narrative that reveals what is behind the book's title. This part of the book is a full-scale 5 -- a 5+ even. It follows a 20-something Jewish American who goes to the Ukraine, with no knowledge of the language or culture, to try to find a woman who he believes saved his grandfather from the Nazis in World War II. He has little more than a photograph and the name of a tiny shtetl that may or may not still exist. He hires the least competent imaginable tour guides (a young man his own age and the man's surly grandfather) to drive him on his search. Their trip is a comedy of errors and misunderstandings, compounded by the guide's endless malapropisms and mangling of the English language, which he think he knows but really doesn't. This part of the book is laugh-out-loud funny. And then.....as they get closer to the target, everything changes as the author brilliantly transforms the story into its title -- "Everything Is Illuminated." Meanwhile the second story line follows what appears to be an imaginary history of the shtetl for which they are searching -- a ridiculous caricaturing of what may have existed in the 1700s and 1800s. The book bounces back and forth, chapter by chapter, between this latter story and the present-day search for the village. I found this "historic" story off-putting and an interference with what to me was the real plot. I would rate this part of the book as a 2+ or a 3, and it keeps me from not giving the book a 5 as a whole. Nevertheless, I strongly recommend the book for its primary story line. It's worth putting up with the rest.

115 people found this helpful

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Everything is illuminated

The story is powerful, although, to me, the flow was uneven. At times, it seemed the story stalled and I was losing the point. But then it would pick up, and I was absorbed again. There are beautiful parts to it, full of tenderness and piercing sadness. The complexity is breathtaking: the book covers multiple generations and cultures, the agony of impossible choices, and explores the meaning of love and life itself. Overall, I thought it was a book to remember.

59 people found this helpful

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Narration by Jerry Lewis

Couldn't stand the Jerry Lewis Jewish boy baby talk from the first second. What crap. Flush the narrator

5 people found this helpful

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Loved the modern part, but the other...🧐

The part of this book in modern-day Ukraine, narrated by a young man with a hilarious grasp of the English language, is FABULOUS! BUT! The other part, beginning in a Stetl in the 1700s & continuing in that Stetl until WWII? It read like a 12-year old boy, obsessed with sex & genitals & all the different way those genitals can be used, had just learned about “dirty words”, & thought it would be sooo funny to mix it into a rather convoluted history of the one Stetl. Even when the third person narrator of this section mentions toilets, he has to say “places to sh*t”, rather than “toilets” or “outhouses”, etc. I’m NO prude, but this was childish, & made me think about the fun a psychiatrist could have with this author, who appears stuck in his genital stage w/a bit of anal mixed in. “Bodily functions are just so funny & make me look cool!” Sorry, dude; not true. Besides that, those sections of the book seemed to go on & on & on & on, just for the sake of the writer wanting to see his words in print, it appears. Most certainly they did not advance the story. Huge chunks were just boring. Excruciatingly so. I wish this could’ve all been told through the modern-day young man with his hilarious vocabulary & syntax. For that, I would’ve given a much higher rating. He made me laugh out loud, he made me tear up, & I couldn’t wait to get back to him. Perfect.

3 people found this helpful

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Go sell crazy elsewhere, Im all full up

I don’t even know where to start because I don’t know what the hell is going on in this book. Crazy voices & narration, unrelated characters, stories, genre? I’m sorry I wasted an hour of my time on this. Don’t buy this. It’s nonsense as far as I can tell.

3 people found this helpful

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I don't get it

This book was horrible, including the narration by Robert Petkoff. I made it through two wasted hours and still have no idea what the storyline is. Even after going back to the book description and rereading some of the reviews, I can't piece together the threads of the story. I'm going to return it if I can.

1 person found this helpful

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not worth it

horrible book , not pleasent to read at all ! don t recommand it .

1 person found this helpful

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What the heck?

I'm not sure what I was listening to. I had to stop. don't waste your money.

1 person found this helpful

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Annoying narration

Annoying narration. Couldn’t even listen beyond 10 minutes. Totally annoying. So I don’t really know about the story content

1 person found this helpful

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one of my top twenty books

I've read this in hard back, several times. the story of love. the disconnection of trying to make sense of your present while exploring the depths of your (and families) past. how love, lust, pain, war, marriage, family, and even places are so inexplicably connected. so many lines from this book have impacted my life for twenty years. the way it is written is a character in itself. the disjointedness. the hero is collecting stories but it's only bits and pieces at a time. with his present thoughts. it doesn't make sense. if I hadn't read this before I can see how this would be confusing at first to a new listener. I promise, like most things, it will become illuminated. if you have patience.