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Summary

Penguin presents the unabridged downloadable audiobook edition of Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer, read by Ari Fliakos. A monumental new novel about modern family lives from the best-selling author of Everything Is Illuminated and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.

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, DC, three sons watch their parents' marriage falter and their family home fall apart. Meanwhile, a larger 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 bear?

©2016 Jonathan Safran Foer (P)2016 Penguin Books Limited

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Complex and relatable characters and story

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