Here I Am

Here I Am, the first novel in 11 years from Jonathan Safran Foer (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close), is his most ambitious and probing yet. It signals the accomplishment of a writer in full control of his extraordinary creativity for revealing how ordinary people respond to their fracturing world.

Jacob Bloch and his wife, the parents of three boys in Washington, D.C., prepare for their eldest son's bar mitzvah as their marriage collapses, against the global backdrop of a devastating earthquake and escalating conflict in the Middle East. Jacob is consumed by his need to understand himself, his family and his Jewish identity, both in the United States and in Israel. He is well meaning but cannot escape his own repression, which stifles his ability to connect, to feel and to act, with inevitable costs to his marriage and other relationships.

What he can do is talk. He offers us his take on life's biggest moments and its most intimate and shaming; he considers the Jewish American response to the Holocaust, confesses details of his sex life, and, with the same unblinking wit, explains his furtive attempts to relieve constipation. This blending of big and small ensures that the novel never falls into self-importance despite its ambition.

Foer's inventiveness and his willingness to reveal his characters' vulnerabilities by putting them in situations that challenge their most fundamental assumptions have always characterized his novels. In Here I Am, these qualities are as energetic and dazzling as ever and are in full service of a big, important novel from a confident, mature writer. --Jeanette Zwart, freelance writer and reviewer

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