Ukraine

Everything is Illuminated– Jonathan Safran Foer

This book is like a strong vodka drink. Starts out rough, but you really end up enjoying it by the end.

At first I was like, why is this a critically acclaimed book? However, it started to grow on me in the middle and by the end I was promising to reread in the future. Seriously, this book is amazing. It hits on all the emotions and has so many vibrant characters.

If you are planning on reading Everything is Illuminated I would suggest doing some prereading on this book, specifically the way it’s structured. I think it goes a lot smoother if you know how it’s written.

In a few words, Everything is Illuminated is about a young Jewish man who sets off into the Ukraine to find the woman who have his grandfather during World War II. He is accompanied by a grandson, grandfather and dog. Each of these characters has their own story and add their own specific value to the story. The grandson, Alex, is not only the guide and translator but learns a lot more about the world. His grandfather is faced with the brutal history of his country. And the dog, well, he adds moments of laughter throughout.

Jonathon Safran Foer writes a fiction tale about a time period the world cannot forget. About a group of people who were attempted to be eradicated. About a time that was dark, and depressing. His use of magical realism makes the story so real. (Fact: Trachimbrod is based on a real town that was eradicated called Trochenbrod. Check out the links for more information!)

We know what happens in the background. How history played out. How hope prevailed and Hitler was stopped. We all learn about these horrific events so that we aren’t doomed to repeat the mistakes. I remember those history lessons, the documentaries and movies. I’ve walked in a concentration camp and felt the weight of the air. I understand those things.

What I don’t understand is how the Jewish religion explained the Nazi beliefs? Especially, when horrible things were happening right in front of their eyes. How does any group of people persecuted for their beliefs continue to believe in a higher power? I just don’t understand…

I do recommend Jonathan Safran Foer’s book to everyone. Just give it a chance. It really comes full circle.

I also watched the 2005 movie. I thought it was a decent adaptation of the book. Key words being “decent” and “adaptation.” The book highlights some really important scenes and pulls more emotion from a viewer. However, so much of the book was cut and the ending was changed to be so much worse in my opinion. I still recommend the watch.

Both the movie and and book got me thinking about searching for your own past and returning to the place you came from. I’m fortunate enough to have done this. Last summer, I went to Greece with my Yia Yia and my brother. I learned so much about her, the culture and my family. I don’t think it would have been possible to do so in any other envrionment. If you ever get the chance to return to your roots, do so! Everything is illuminated by the light of the past. Or so I’ve heard.

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