In hilariously mangled English, a Ukrainian boy describes his efforts to help a young American Jew find the village his grandfather fled in World War II.
Writes Laura Miller in Salon.com: There are two stories wound together in this first novel, and as is often the case, one is more engaging than the other. The first describes a visit to Ukraine by a 20-year-old American named Jonathan Safran Foer. (You just have to ignore the fact that the device of putting a character with the author’s name in a novel outlived its freshness before Foer was born, in 1977.) This part of the book is told by Alexander Perchov, a Ukrainian, also 20, who gets shanghaied into acting as Foer’s tour guide and semi-competent translator when Foer visits the country. Like many Jews of his generation, Foer wants to touch the pulse of his roots, to see the village of Trachimbrod, where his grandfather was born and raised, and to meet the woman whose family saved him from the Nazis. The two young men are trading manuscripts, and so the narrative alternates excerpts from Alex’s account of Foer’s visit and his letters to Jonathan with installments of Jonathan’s own novel.
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