I came away last night feeling like I had been duped. The reason for my unpleasant feeling about this book is that the style, format, characters, flow are EXACTLY like Foer’s.
What a surprise that there are 3 different main characters in this story: Leon Gursky, a Polish Jew nearing death who has spent his life revisiting the past which centered around his love for his childhood sweetheart, Alma; Alma, a pre-teen who was named after a character in a book titled The History of Love (written by Gursky) who lost her father (that’s a new theme) and is struggling with her own identity and Zvi Litvinoff, Gursky’s childhood friend, who somewhat assumes Gursky’s identity. Each chapter is told from the standpoint of one of the characters and assumes the voice of the character. I absolutely loved Leon Gursky, he is this fabulous old man who does something “public” every day – i.e. buys a soda, drops money on the ground, models nude for an art class – just to make sure that he doesn’t die on a day that noone knew he was alive. I also loved a more minor character “Bird” who is Alma’s younger brother and believes he is one of the 36 people that God designated to save the world.
My big issue was that there were so many similarities to Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close that I felt like I was just re-reading a different version of this book. The style that seemed so innovative when Foer wrote it now just seemed regurgitated under his wife’s writing. I also wish that she had created characters that were not old, Jewish people who managed to survive WWII/holocaust and were now looking back on their lives. Krauss and Foer are both Jewish and obviously pulling on stories/experiences that are familiar but Krauss threw one South American character in there – why couldn’t she have continued on that theme and ventured into a different culture than Eastern European Jewish.
I am probably unfairly bashing this book more than it deserves and I think it is a classic case of not meeting my expectations rather than not being a well written novel.