In my mind, I'm calling this entry: Endless Summer Reading, Jewish Edition!
One of my favorite authors is a guy named Jonathan Safran Foer. He wrote, among other things, the book that became one of my all-time favorite movies, Everything is Illuminated. Turns out, he is from a very literary family. In fact, his brother, Joshua Foer, just released his debut book entitled Moonwalking With Einstein, and his wife, Nicole Krauss, is an acclaimed writer herself. Both Foer and Krauss are Jewish writers, and you can so often see how their faith and culture permeates throughout their work. As I have mentioned many times before, I am mildly obsessed with Jewish culture and authors. This husband and wife pair are right up my alley.
On this edition of Endless Summer Reading, I wanted to highlight my favorite literary couple and focus on some of my favorite of their novels.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer ★★★★★
It took me a while to pick up this book because of the subject matter. Foer writes of a young boy, Oskar, whose father was killed during the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. I was wary of authors "capitalizing" on the national grief caused by these events, and I stayed away from Foer's novel. I decided to give it a shot recently, and it quickly became one of my all-time favorite books (ranking up there with The Bridge of San Luis Rey, if you're keeping score). Foer writes beautiful and strange postmodern novels, often from several points of view and in several different chronologies. The "main" story in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is written from the point of view of a child who has lost his father, and you are in his head during the heartbreak and grief to come. Foer writes with experience and honesty about family relationships and non-romantic love. This book made me cry and was bewilderingly good. I highly recommend Foer's novel. Trust me when I say it will make you feel. You will be sad when this book ends.
The History of Love by Nicole Krauss ★★★★☆
The History of Love, moreso than Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, really focuses in on Jewish history and tradition. She weaves Judaism throughout the novel, focusing much on the experiences of the Jewish survivors of the Holocaust. Like her husband, Krauss is a very postmodern author. She tells the story of a Holocaust survivor's lost love through his own voice and the voices of two children to whom he is seemingly unconnected. There are so many parallels in Krauss' novel and Foer's that you would think they planned it. Both use the voices of children in order to convey hard experiences. Both talk about the child's loss of a father and how motherhood changes when a spouse is lost. Both invoke sweeping historical (and even generational) accounts in order to tell their stories. And both might make you cry. This is a satisfying but heartbreaking love story about fulfillment and contentment in times of grief and loss. Again, I recommend The History of Love.