A review by junkutopia
Here I Am, by Jonathan Safran Foer

3.0

Update: As predicted I already want to knock this down to 3 stars. The more good fiction I read the more clear it is that this a perfect example of a solid but flawed 3 star novel.

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I'm having a tough time deciding what I think of this novel overall, so this might be a bit wishy-washy and my thoughts could well change numerous times in future.

The first 100 pages or so were real tough going; If it wasn't by a author I've enjoyed in the past I may have quit. The latter part of the book makes sense but is choppy, a bit all over the place. But (and this is a big, important but) in the middle and leaking into the aforementioned sections there is a fantastic, nuanced family drama. Not stylistically but in it's wide scope of covering one family in microscopic detail it really reminded me of [b:The Corrections|3805|The Corrections|Jonathan Franzen|https://d2arxad8u2l0g7.cloudfront.net/books/1355011305s/3805.jpg|941200], and frankly I love that kind of shit!

But it feels gimmicky in places with more devices than necessary, which if you've read JSF before you should expect from his two previous novels. But whereas they both contained a more 'fantasy' (for want of a better word) type world via certain elements, it's much more jarring in this hyperrealistic drama setting. I found it hard to believe kids that age could really be like that, the video game parts seem to be written by a guy who has never even seen someone else play a real video game, and just in general some of the things the family gets up to seem absurd. Which there is nothing wrong with, this is a story after all, but it just doesn't sit as well in a 600 page epic novel about religion and the modern family for me.

But when it's great, it is really great. For me this mostly came out when two or more characters were talking with each other, such wonderful, realistic dialogue between family members that pages just flew by in what felt like seconds, and I'm sure most people will already be aware that Foer is excellent with words and a master of writing in such a way to elicit maximum emotional impact.

So ultimately while being pretty different from his previous two works, it's actually pretty similar for me: A strong novel, beautiful writing, a interesting and turning story with deeper meaning, but stopped being a insta-fav because that story is also clunky in places and contains a few added unnecessaries; dare I say due to trying to hard?