Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer

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Author:  Jonathan Safran Foer

Title:  Everything Is Illuminated

Genre:  Literary Fiction

Publication Date:  2003

Number of Pages:  276

Geographical Setting:  the Ukraine

Time Period:  1791 through 1990s

Plot Summary:  This book is not just one story.  It is several stories layered together that all fit by the novel’s end.  In short, Jonathan Safran Foer travels to the Ukraine to find a woman who knew his lost grandfather based on the caption on the back of a photo.  Once there, he is guided by Ukrainian contemporary Alex, Alex’s little brother, their “blind” grandfather, and a dog named Sammy Davis Junior, Junior.  Alex is the novel’s primary narrator and we learn about him through letters to Safran Foer.  Interspersed throughout these letters are chapters from Safran Foer’s lyrical novel about inhabitants of a small Jewish town in the Ukraine.

Subject Headings:  World War Two, hidden Jews, the Ukraine, the Holocaust, Jewish Americans

Appeal:  magical, multiple points of view, humorous, romantic, melancholy, moving, intriguing, sensual, imaginative, richly drawn, imaginative, lyrical

3 terms that best describe this book:  creative, richly drawn, moving

Similar Authors and Works:
3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

  1. Max and Helen: A Remarkable True Love Story by Simon Wiesenthal- A true story of lovers separated by the World War Two and their journey back together.
  2. Ukraine, Culture Shock! A Guide to Customs and Etiquette by Meredith Dalton– This travel guide aims to inform you about the customs and people of the Ukraine rather than simply the sites and attractions.
  3. Jewish Roots in Ukraine and Moldova: Pages from the Past and Archival Inventories by Miriam Weiner- A book for those also searching for their family history from this region.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

  1. A History of Love by Nicole Krauss- Written by Safran Foer’s wife, the novels share both the thematic focus of the Holocaust and a lyrical, unusual style.
  2. Brief Encounters with Che Guevara by Ben Fountain- Short stories that use humor and prose to describe life in other countries.
  3. The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera- A novel about passion and politics and choices that you have to make in life.

Name:  Laura Melton

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