Anyone who has ever lived in a small town or a subdivision will find this novel hilarious. I grew up in a really small town and didn’t live in a subdivision myself but have seen them popping up everywhere since I was a child and had many friends whose families moved into them as soon as they sprung up. Little boxes in a row indeed, each coming up with smaller yards and getting closer and closer to your neighbors. It was surprising to me how relevant the novel remains even though it was written in the ’70s. The suburbs and subdivisions they inspire are still as popular as ever as more and more people move from the city to the suburbs in search of a cheaper cost of living.
Every chapter is a little foray into suburb and small town life from going to garage sales to attending block parties. Some of my favorite chapters are the ones where the mother has to go into the schools and be a yard duty. I remember those mothers well at my own school and find it even funnier now that I myself work in education. The depiction of kids is priceless. If you’ve ever watched the show Recess from the Disney channel it’s exactly like the kindergartners. So spot on it’s scary. I also loved the garage sale chapter. I remember way back in the day when my grandmother used to make my brother and I man the cash box at her garage sales and how crazy people get bargaining over the things you think are total crap.
The nostalgia factor is again so high in this novel. It just reminds me of growing up and being surrounded and enveloped by subdivisions. I laughed out loud quite a few times by different caricatures of people I’ve known or friends’ parents. Even my own parents at times. My dad who always insisted on fixing everything himself and the conversations we have over dinner, probably the same three over and over again.
I didn’t think I would find this novel as funny as my grandma said it was but I can happily say that it is. I would definitely recommend it for this who like dry humor and commentary on the norms and mores of suburb living.
Next up in Book Battle 2015 is the flipped of this one. A book that will make you cry. Stay tuned for the title. Happy reading!
Everything Is Illuminated is a novel about the power of memory and the fine line between fiction and reality. I didn’t really know what to expect when I opened the pages of this novel. I hadn’t really heard all that much about it and know no one who has read it before. All I knew was that it was made into a movie, which I still have yet to see.
The novel unfolds slowly peeling back layers and layers of protection from each character until their ultimate truth can be revealed. The first few chapters had me laughing out loud. Alex plays the lovable, bumbling idiot to perfection. The Ukrainian family is full of delightful quirks, like a grandfather who believes he is blind and must have a seeing eye bitch named Sammy Davis Junior Junior. But it’s not until you delve further into the novel that you realize those quirks are guards each characters puts up to present a chosen image of themselves to the world so that they may remain protected.
The theme that hit me the most throughout the novel was one of fiction vs. reality. You never really know what’s true and what the character has invented based on their facade. Every character is unreliable and creates an illusion of the way they see things or the way they want others to perceive them. Beginning with Brod and continuing on through, each character manufactures and invents a history for themselves to blur the lines between fiction and reality. Brod often confuses the books she reads with her real life events to the point where she doesn’t know what is true and what is make believe. Jonathan creates a whole history for his ancestors that is in part truth and in part added embellishment in the exchange of letters between him and Alex. Even Alex creates a persona for himself that is more fantasy than it is reality. The whole book itself is also a blur of fiction and reality. Upon some research, I found out that the actual author did go to Ukraine in search for family connections, just as in the book, but didn’t find what he was looking for so he decided to invent this alternative history in narrative form.
Everything Is Illuminated is a powerful book about memory and loss and the ways we as humans cope and struggle to make sense of things.
I would definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in reading literary fiction that you have to analyze and read between the lines to figure out. Now I must find the movie so I can watch it! Fingers crossed it’s on Netflix.
Stay tuned for the next book in Book Battle 2015. I’m oscillating between two categories so hopefully I will be able to make up my mine soon. Happy reading!