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I've enjoyed Safran Foer's previous books and didn't know this had come out until I stumbled upon his 'Audible Sessions' interview recently.
The audiobook achieves that rarity of Safran Foer's dense and examining writing, relatable characters who feel familiar, frustrating and sympathetic and a performance by Ari Fliakos that really helps make the characters and story come to life (his portrayal of Irv alone is worth the credit. If this were a film, he'd be nominated for best supporting actor).
The two twin disasters of war and divorce are played out while digging deep into themes of family dynamics, monogamy and happiness, ritual, faith, reality vs. virtual reality, consumerism, childhood, politics, culture and the riddle that is: how do you prioritise your own happiness vs. your family vs. looking out for all of mankind? And all of this seasoned with the ever-present backdrop of the American Jewish experience in all its complexity and oddity and what that means when truly tested in the context of the outbreak of war in the middle east.
The story immediately pulls you in by revealing that something very bad is about to happen a few days / weeks after we're introduced to Sam, but the tension is held until roughly halfway through before we realise what's waiting for our characters. In the meantime, the writing and portrayals of the easily-relatable and endlessly infuriating Jacob, Julia, their - sometimes unrealistically articulate - children, parents, the "Israeli cousins" (another breakthrough performance of Tamir by Fliakos) and more carry us deep within the all-too-real world that the author has made for us.
I've read other reviews that complain about the book's complexity and density. Sure, no book should be for everyone and if you like your audiobooks light and entertaining then I'd avoid this. If you enjoy critical thinking and reflecting and delighting in the author's words that shine new light and perspective on otherwise unreflected surfaces then I'd recommend both the story as written by Safran Foer and the performance given by Fliakos.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
Saran For does dialogue better than any other writer I know, which means you get right inside the characters directly from what they say.
4 of 5 people found this review helpful