Here I Am by Jonathan Safran FoerHere I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer

Here I Am

byJonathan Safran Foer

Hardcover | September 6, 2016

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Longlisted for the 2017 International Dylan Thomas Prize

God asked Abraham to sacrifice his beloved son Isaac, and Abraham replied obediently, "Here I am."     

This is the story of a fracturing family in a moment of crisis. Over the course of three weeks in present-day Washington, D.C., three sons watch their parents' marriage falter and their family home fall apart. Meanwhile, a large catastrophe is engulfing another part of the world: a massive earthquake devastates the Middle East, sparking a pan-Arab invasion of Israel. With global upheaval in the background and domestic collapse in the foreground, Jonathan Safran Foer asks us: What is the true meaning of home? Can one man ever reconcile the conflicting duties of his many roles– husband, father, son? And how much of life can a person ultimately bear?
JONATHAN SAFRAN FOER was born in 1977 in Washington, D.C. He is the author of the award-winning novels Everything Is Illuminated and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close as well as the non-fiction Eating Animals. He has also edited a new modern edition of the sacred Jewish Haggadah. His stories have been published in The Paris Review, C...
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Title:Here I AmFormat:HardcoverDimensions:592 pages, 9.3 × 6.4 × 1.8 inPublished:September 6, 2016Publisher:Penguin CanadaLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0735232938

ISBN - 13:9780735232938

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Reviews

Rated 4 out of 5 by from Worth it Although the book can be a little confusing at times, it was well worth the read. Foer's writing, as always, is impeccable. I cannot praise his writing enough. It is unique and with purpose.
Date published: 2017-01-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Yeah! Bought this a month ago, and so happy that I did.
Date published: 2016-12-13
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Yeah I bought this a month ago and I'm so happy I did!
Date published: 2016-11-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Worth the Decade Wait Jonathan Safran Foer’s first novel in a decade follows the breakup of a Jewish family unfolding in a framework where Israel has been invaded and the Middle East has been hit by an earthquake. I think it was worth the ten year wait. Written with the same emotional resonance in his previous novels this book is one long hilarious rage filled rant about family, culture, the purpose of life and the impossible pursuit of happiness. This intimate trajectory of a struggling marriage that initially appears to be rock solid but as one transgression is revealed it becomes the loose string that unravels the proverbial string which in turn, unravels the entire sweater. Foer takes a humorous path to reach a serious destination and his writing is exceptionally funny and clever. The dialogue is remarkable and seems to fit the description that Phillip Roth used to define the "sensibility" of so-called Jewish novels: "the nervousness, the excitability, the arguing, the dramatizing, the indignation, the obsessiveness, the touchiness, the playacting, above all the talking," Ah yes, the talking. If you think your family has quirky personalities, particularly the kids, pull up a chair for a visit with the Bloch family. The book is a wonderful combination of intellect, brilliant writing and humour. It confirms Foer’s importance as a leading literary talent and demonstrates that he is an author who is emerging in to one of our most important contemporary writers.
Date published: 2016-07-04

Bookclub Guide

In this sweeping, heartfelt novel, his first in eleven years, the bestselling author of Everything Is Illuminated and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close explores essential questions of marriage and parenthood, faith and duty, and the ways that history shadows the present. A work of extraordinary scope and intimacy, Here I Am is the story of the fracturing of the Bloch family: Jacob and Julia and their three sons. The marriage is faltering, as old wounds are confronted in the wake of a devastating discovery. The eldest son, Sam, is on the verge of his bar mitzvah, but no one is certain the ceremony will take place. The Israeli cousins are visiting. And a catastrophic earthquake in the Middle East has set off a series of cascading crises that will lead to a pan-Arab invasion of Israel. Confirming Foer’s stature as one of the most important writers of his generation, Here I Am is sure to spark meaningful dialogue about a wide range of issues. We hope that the following questions and topics will enrich your experience of this soul-searching, hard-hitting masterwork.Questions and Topics for Discussion    1. From Isaac and Irving to Jacob and Sam to Tamir and Barak, the male characters of Here I Am complicate simple notions of Jewish masculinity. How do the expectations of manhood differ across generations and nationalities? What do the Bloch and Blumenberg men all have in  common? 2. Jacob and Julia are not traditionally religious, but early in their relationship they practiced a “religion for two”—their own Friday Shabbat, Wednesday strolls, and Rosh Hashanah rituals, among others. What do rituals mean for the characters of Here I Am? How important are rituals—in religion, in relationships, and in everyday life—for you?   3. Irv tells his son, Jacob, “Without context, we’d all be monsters” (page 24).  What are the contexts that the characters refer to in order to explain their behavior? Are they being honest when they do this? Does the context for behavior make a person more or less responsible for his or her actions?   4. What did you think of Julia’s reaction upon discovering Jacob’s secret cell phone? How would you have reacted?   5. Technology is central to the lives of the characters of Here I Am: texting, virtual worlds, tablets, the Internet, television, Skype, podcasts, blogs, and so on. What are the different roles that technology plays in the lives of these characters? How does technology affect your own life and the ways you communicate?   6. What do Sam and Billie learn about love and conflict at Model UN? How does the students’ imaginary leadership differ from the responses of world leaders when an actual crisis erupts in the Middle East?   7. In the chapter “Maybe It Was the Distance” (beginning on page 219), we learn that Isaac and Benny (Tamir’s grandfather) were the only siblings out of a family of seven brothers who survived the Shoah. After a few years together in a displaced persons camp, Isaac settles in America, and Benny in Israel. Foer writes, “Isaac never understood Benny. Benny understood Issac, but never forgave him.” Did Isaac evade his responsibilities to the Jewish homeland by moving to Washington, D.C.? What did you think of Jacob’s decision not to go to Israel? Was he being cowardly or courageous? How do the other characters, like Tamir and Irv, define courage?   8. “Before [Jacob and Julia] had kids, if asked to conjure images of parenthood they would have said things like ‘Reading in bed,’ and ‘Giving a bath,’ and ‘Running while holding the seat of a bicycle.’ Parenthood contains such moments of warmth and intimacy, but isn’t them. It’s cleaning up. The great bulk of family life involves no exchange of love, and no meaning, only fulfillment. Not the fulfillment of feeling fulfilled, but of fulfilling that which now falls to you” (page 466). If you are a parent, do you agree? Did this vision of family life ring true to you?9. At Isaac’s funeral, the rabbi says: “And so it is with prayer, with true prayer, which is never a request, and never praise, but the expression of something of extreme significance that would otherwise have no way to be expressed. As Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote, ‘Prayer may not save us. But prayer may make us worthy of being saved.’ We are made worthy, made righteous, by expression” (page 350). What is the role of prayer for the characters in the novel? What does prayer mean in your own life?  10. Compare the early version of Sam’s bar mitzvah speech, which begins on page 101, to the final version, which begins on page 450. How has his view of the world, and of himself, been transformed?  11. The novel takes its title from passages in Genesis in which God calls out, “Abraham!” before ordering him to sacrifice his son, Isaac. Abraham dutifully responds, “Here I am.” When do the novel’s characters let each other know “Here I am,” bound by duty? How does this kind of duty both make us free and constrain us?  12. How does Jacob and Julia’s divorce affect their three sons? Does it bring them together? What did you think of the “family conversation” between the brothers that begins on page 437?  13. After viewing a documentary on concentration camps, Sam is wracked with the notion that “his life was, if not the result of, then at least inextricably bound to, the profound suffering, and that there was some kind of existential equation, whatever it was and whatever its implications, between his life and their deaths. Or no knowledge, but a feeling . . . The feeling of being Jewish, but what was that feeling?” (pages 338–39). How does the legacy of the Holocaust affect the Blochs? How do they define their Jewish identity?  14. How did you react to Jacob’s terrifying, exhilarating experience in the lion’s den (page 390)? What was Tamir’s motivation in insisting that Jacob make the leap? How does that moment serve as a metaphor for their adult lives?  15. Discuss the “How to Play” instructions that make up part VII, “The Bible.” What autobiographical details do they reveal about Jacob? Has everyone in his family spent their lives performing an invented role? How do the different characters use humor to express their feelings?    16. Should Julia have run away from Mark, or should she have run to him even sooner? Could Jacob and Julia have saved their marriage? Was it the texts that undid their marriage, or was it something else? Why do you think Jacob wrote the texts?    17. “More than a thousand ‘constructed languages’ have been invented—by linguists, novelists, hobbyists—each with the dream of correcting the imprecision, inefficiency, and irregularity of natural language. Some constructed languages are based on the musical scale and sung. Some are color-based and silent. The most admired constructed languages were designed to reveal what communication could be, and none of them is in use” (pages 427–28). The characters of Here I Am struggle to express outside what they feel inside, to overcome the inadequacy of language and say what they really mean. What conflicts in the book are rooted in failures of communication? Do you struggle, like Julia, Jacob, Sam, Isaac, and the others, to express yourself, to speak hard truths?18. Do you think the book stakes out a position on Israel and its relationship with the United States and the Arab world?  19. What makes Argus’s story a fitting conclusion to the novel? What has Argus taught Jacob about finding fulfillment in life?  

Editorial Reviews

An Instant New York Times Bestseller A New York Times Notable Book of 2016 A Time Magazine Top 10 Novel of 2016 A Times Literary Supplement Best Book of 2016A Goodreads Choice Awards Nominee for Fiction 2016A Washington Post Best Book of the YearAn Amazon.com Best Book of the YearLonglisted for the 2017 International Dylan Thomas Prize“Brilliant, always original . . . Certain set pieces . . . show a masterly sense of timing and structure and deep feeling . . . Foer strews small, semiprecious comic and gnomic gems all along the trail he is breaking . . Here I Am is not only the novel's title but also, maybe, an announcement of its ambitious and crazy-talented author's literary residence―an announcement that not only his location but his basic sensibility and very identity are to be found in this work.” ―Daniel Menaker, The New York Times Book Review“Here I Am is one of those books, like Middlemarch, or for that matter Gone Girl, which lays bare the interior of a marriage with such intelligence and deep feeling and pitiless clarity, it’s impossible to read it and not re-examine your own family, and your place in it.” —Lev Grossman, Time“[Here I Am] is an ambitious platter of intellection and emotion. Its observations are crisp; its intimations of doom resonate; its jokes are funny. Here I Am consistently lit up my pleasure centers . . . This is also Mr. Foer’s best and most caustic novel, filled with so much pain and regret that your heart sometimes struggles to hold it all . . . This book offers intensities on every page. Once put down it begs . . . to be picked back up . . . [Here I Am] has more teeming life in it than several hundred well-meaning and well-reviewed books of midlist fiction put together.” —The New York Times “Here I Am, Jonathan Safran Foer’s third novel, makes of his readers a battalion of Alices, constantly shrinking and growing as they fall prey to seductive narrative inducements. At one moment we are considering the rage that can simmer within a marriage, the next we’re pondering the imminent destruction of Israel – in the world of the novel, not imaginary but real. The minutiae of domestic life and individual idiosyncrasy are so involving . . . [And] its structure is more reflective of its themes and concerns than is at first apparent. The atomisation of its central family unit is deeply unsettling . . . For all this, Here I Am is endearingly funny, its one-liners and comic hyperboles undercutting its inherent melancholy. Set pieces delight . . . And it is also a novel about the inevitable and incomprehensible tragedy of the baton passing between generations.” ―Alex Clark, The Guardian "Foer writes like a dream. . . big-hearted, courageous and jaw-droppingly clever" ―Deborah Moggach, bestselling author of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel“Emotional depth and dramatic maturity. . . Unarguably Foer's most substantial and impressive work yet.” —Herald“Here I Am is not an easy read; it’s an important one, as it reaches to the heart of so many issues—from family dynamics to politics—and is a fascinating study in intelligent, heartfelt writing that manages to capture the essence of life in 2016. Foer writes a multitude of jewel-like one-liners so poignant they’ll take your breath away  . . . The best thing about this book is its ability to mean different things to different people, whether you’re Jewish and understand every nuance or you’re simply a lover of literature. Either way, you’ll turn the last page knowing that someone else understands the sometimes searing pain of being alive and can also put it into words.” —Canadian Living“Here I Am is a wondrous novel, one of the most memorable books in years. Jonathan Safran Foer is never intimidated by big, bold topics (Israel’s potential demise) but also unafraid to grapple with one of the oldest but smallest themes of Western literature (“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way”). There’s no American novelist today who writes so profoundly about teenage angst (especially boys), about the dynamics of closely-knit families, about sibling relationships, about parental fears of failure with their children. Nor is there anyone who writes dialogue (quick repartee, puns, intentional non sequiturs, irony and put-downs) as well as Foer . . . Jonathan Safran Foer has reinvented the novel about the American Jewish experience. His works are the rightful heir to the novels by Bernard Malamud and Saul Bellow, deceased, and Philip Roth, who has said he has stopped writing.” ―Charles R. Larson, Counterpunch "[A] startling and urgent novel . . . There are scenes so sad and so funny and so wry that I texted a friend repeatedly as I was reading it, just to say “goodness me!” . . . [T]he soul, if you will, of this novel is not in its technique, but in its soulfulness. It is a novel about why we love and how we love and how we might stop loving. It is humane in that no character is a caricature. Foer has become the novelist we deserve . . . [He has] stretched and expanded the possibilities of the novel without losing either intellectual integrity or emotional honesty. Here I Am is not just bold, it is brave . . . That this book is not on the Man Booker shortlist is nothing short of a disgrace: it will be remembered when all the second-rate crime fiction and dinner party novels are long forgotten.” ―Stuart Kelly, The Scotsman (UK) “Foer tests his own boundaries of spirituality and sexuality, ambition and sacrifice, originality and influence, revisiting themes and techniques from his earlier books. With this novel, he is stepping up to compete for his place in literary history . . . Foer rises to the rhetorical challenges of this plot, paying full attention to its comic, apocalyptic, psychological, emotional and historic possibilities. It’s an exciting, masterful performance and his energy and power of invention never flags. ” ―Elaine Showalter, Prospect (UK) “A substantial, engaging novel, full of suspense, searching and humor, calling upon its readers, in turn, to locate themselves with respect to the intimate portrait it draws of families responding to personal and political crises.” ―John Goldbach, The Globe and Mail “A rich, beautifully written, ambitious and grandly moving novel, which looks both at the world at large and at the deepest concerns of individual lives.” ―Evening Standard“Funny scenes and characters leaven the melancholy of Here I Am, as it chronicles the way small problems in a marriage can amass until they devastate . . . Foer, who first won readers over with youthful exuberance, now proves he can write just as well about growing older. Here I Am is a stunner of a family saga.” ―Jenny Shank, Dallas Morning News “Hilarious and heart-rending . . . Here I Am is the meticulous portrait of a family’s disintegration, but the ‘portrait’ in this case is far more cinematic than painterly, hopping back and forth in time and from consciousness to consciousness to create a dynamic narrative full of painfully real characters.” ―Daniel Akst, Newsday “Brilliant . . . The book ends on a sorrowful and deeply poignant scene, but even the moments of pain and loss do not diminish the vital spirit, so authentically Jewish, that is the real glory of Here I Am.” ―Jonathan Kirsch, Jewish Journal “[Foer] imbues Here I Am with raw emotion and genuine empathy. Jacob is a sympathetic character, his story hums with energy.” ―Trine Tsouderos, The Chicago Tribune “There is an undeniable joy to be had in reading Foer’s textured, playful prose.” ―Constance Grady, Vox“It is a towering and glorious thing . . . It is also, possibly, the funniest literary novel I have ever read.” —The Times “Hilarious and heart-rending . . . Here I Am is the meticulous portrait of a family’s disintegration, but the ‘portrait’ in this case is far more cinematic than painterly, hopping back and forth in time and from consciousness to consciousness to create a dynamic narrative full of painfully real characters.” —Newsday“Highly enjoyable and extremely funny . . . Foer delivers pleasingly pithy formulations and clear-eyed analysis of the Blochs’ intricately painful break-up . . . After a year full of unnecessarily bloated books it is a joy to read one that actually merits the space. Safran Foer is an absolute master of his fictional universe. In Here I Am he has found a place to put anything and everything. This is a true holdall, a glorious carpetbag of a novel with room for jokes, anecdotes, riffs, memories, speeches, theories, digressions and all number of odds and ends. There is also room for long, brilliant jokes, extended bouts of moral juggling, and some truly great lists. Safran Foer really has remembered it all, and put it to dazzling good use.” —Times Literary Supplement “A soulful search to find the meaning in life and a faith no longer taken for granted . . . [Foer] has written a thoughtful exploration of what it means to be Jewish in America today—and whether it should mean more than it often does.” —Houston Chronicle“Foer's intensely imagined and richly rewarding novel . . . is a teeming saga of members of the [Bloch] family . . . Throughout, his dark wit drops in zingers of dialogue, leavening his melancholy assessments of the loneliness of human relationships and a world riven by ethnic hatred. He poses several thorny moral questions, among them how to have religious faith in the modern world, and what American Jews' responsibilities are toward Israel. That he can provide such a redemptive denouement, at once poignant, inspirational, and compassionate, is the mark of a thrillingly gifted writer” —Publishers Weekly (starred review) “A far longer, edgier, and more caustically funny tale than Everything Is Illuminated and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. . . for all [Foer’s] focus on familial intricacy (including attachment to an aging dog), intellectual musings, rogue eroticism, and various neuroses, Foer is also grappling with the larger forces of anti-Semitism and war . . . [This] polyphonic and boldly comedic tale of one family’s quandaries astutely and forthrightly confronts humankind’s capacity for the ludicrous and the profound, cruelty and love.” —Booklist (starred review)“A big, bombastic celebration of the smallness of life.” —A.O. Scott, The Atlantic“An unflinching, tender appraisal of cultural displacement in an uncertain age.” —The Economist “This richly conceived work [is] more than another tale of marital woe . . . Rigorous questions within an accessible story; highly recommended.” —Library Journal (starred review)“A darkly hilarious mile-a-minute novel” —The Guardian“Here I Am signals the accomplishment of a writer in full control of his extraordinarily creative imagination, who has become comfortable with pushing the conventions of fiction to reveal how ordinary people respond to their fracturing world . . . In Here I Am, the irresistible narrative gymnastics are as energetic and dazzling as ever and are in full service of a big, important novel from a confident, mature writer.” —Shelf Awareness“Dazzling . . . A profound novel about the claims of identity, history, family, and the burdens of a broken world.” —NPR“The omission of Jonathan Safran Foer’s Here I Am from the Man Booker longlist struck me as one of those typically inexplicable quirks; in literature, as Anatole France said, as in love we are always surprised by the choices of others. It is both an ambitious and moving novel; in part a forensic dissection of a family riven with problems, in part a speculative political thriller in which the very existence of Israel is threatened. As a portrait of a marriage where affection remains but desire has evaporated, it is devastating.” —Stuart Kelly, Times Literary Supplement “Foer seek[s] to shock us and make us laugh, and he succeeds at both.” —Jewish Journal  “A rambunctious tour de force of inventive and intelligent storytelling...Foer can place his reader's hand on the heart of human experience, the transcendent beauty of human connections. Read, you can feel the life beating.” —Philadelphia Inquirer on Everything Is Illuminated“Here I Am validates [Jonathan Safran Foer]'s status as one of our generation's great American novelists . . . the story thrives on Foer's uncanny ability to cunningly fold the perceptual sets of multiple generations into a modern national epic.” ―Dan Frazier, Nylon “[Foer's] writing has taken on a sly maturity that feels fresh and new. Here I Am is destined to be a polarizing, much-discussed novel. Love it or hate it, it is well worth your time.” ―Ian Schwartz, BookPage “[Foer] thinks with intensity and nuance about subjects that are hard because they are big.” ―Gemma Sief, Bookforum “A book that is as humorous as it is tragic which is to say, at its best, a mirror of life as we actually live it.” ―Geraldine Brooks, Moment “Foer is brilliant on the quotidian tortures of marital discord.” ―Alex Preston, The Observer (UK) “Brilliantly funny, stealthily heart-crushing.” ―W Magazine "[Here I Am] is at once painfully honest and genuinely hilarious―and full of emotional surprises that will leave you reeling.” ―Elle “Dialogue pings, as animated as an Aaron Sorkin script, and is often, very, very funny.” ―Jonathan Dean, Sunday Times (UK)“[Here I Am] showcases Foer's emotional dexterity even as it takes place across a wider canvas than his previous books . . . This is great stuff, written with the insight of someone who has navigated the crucible of family, who understands how small slights lead to crises, the irreconcilability of love . . . Sharply observed.” ―Kirkus Reviews“A brilliant, heart-breaking novel of marriage, children and the state of the world that will make you laugh so much you will be forced to read pieces out loud to somebody” –The Irish Times