Here I Am

Australian Women’s Weekly NZ - - BOOKS - MJ

by Jonathan Safran-Foer, Pen­guin/Ran­dom House.

Jewish-Amer­i­can screen­writer Ja­cob Bloch is hav­ing a midlife cri­sis. “I’m smaller than life,” he com­plains to his Is­raeli sec­ond cousin Tamir, who is stay­ing with him at his Wash­ing­ton DC home as their ex­tended fam­ily get ready to cel­e­brate Ja­cob’s son Sam’s bar mitz­vah. As Tamir’s sol­dier son pre­pares for war in his home­land of Is­rael, which is be­ing in­vaded, the small­ness of Ja­cob’s prob­lems in com­par­i­son to his vis­it­ing rel­a­tive’s feels im­mense. Ja­cob’s mar­riage is dis­solv­ing (not helped by his sexting re­la­tion­ship with a co-worker or his ar­chi­tect wife’s grow­ing at­trac­tion to a client), his ca­reer is at a stand­still, his great grand­fa­ther, Holo­caust sur­vivor Irv’s health is fail­ing and he may not see his great-grand­child’s bar mitz­vah, and his re­la­tion­ship with his son Sam is com­pli­cated. For this dis­con­nected dad, it’s also trou­bling to know that his num­ber one son has a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of his par­ent’s in­ad­e­qua­cies than his own. It’s prov­ing to be too con­fronting and un­com­fort­ably in­sight­ful. Foer’s mas­sive, sprawl­ing novel is a chaotic read – so clever in parts that you want to re­turn to some para­graphs and savour the elo­quence of the sen­tences, and so graphic and shock­ing in others, you might won­der if you want to con­tinue – but it’s worth per­sist­ing. Al­low your ir­ri­ta­tion to­wards the nar­cis­sis­tic ten­den­cies of mankind to take a back seat and take on board Ja­cob’s father Isaac’s words of wis­dom: “Not to have a choice,” he says, “is also a choice.”

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