276 pages, ★★
Somewhere, buried deep beneath layers of Jewish humour and outrageous English, this book contains a novel about one man’s personal quest to solve a Holocaust mystery. The story is so hidden, though, so completely suffocated with humour (to the point where it stops being funny), that it would takes at least a couple of readings to fully appreciate the plot.
The protagonist (who shares the same name as the author) goes to the Ukraine in search of the woman who saved his grandfather from the Nazis. The story is told from a variety of perspectives, with large parts told in the form of letters in hilariously broken English from the protagonist’s Ukrainian translator, Alex.
Anyone as clueless about Jewish humour as I am would probably be able to tell you that while most of this book appears to be funny, they can’t actually identify where the punchlines are. That’s how I feel. The deeper Holocaust narrative is inaccessible to me because it’s been concealed so heavily by slapstick wordplay. The film looks much clearer, though:
Everything is not Illuminated by this book. I’m a little disappointed with its lack of clarity. While some people can understandably give this 4 or 5 stars, I can only give it two. ★★