I just love the language jokes, both subtle and unsubtle, inherent in the character of the translator. The first 3/4 of the book had me laughing delightedly so often that I almost rated it up there with Catch-22. The last part of the book took on a more dream-like, esoteric quality, and while I still liked the book very much, I don't give it 5 stars. But if you love language, don't miss this one. It was fun being aware of all kinds of things that the narrator was missing. Takes a lot of skill to write that delicately.
This is one of those books...you either get it, or you don't. I think it was so clever, so magical, so intelligently written, both funny and devastatingly sad at the same time. This is a beautiful book like nothing I have ever read before.
It's an interesting idea, and I liked the concept of this conversation between writers, but the book didn't come together for me at all. I kept being annoyed by little things and getting thrown out of the story of the book. The worst part was the faked bad English, which was very badly faked. I kept stopping reading and I would think to myself "there's no way someone learning English could make a mistake like this - you have to already know English well to draw this connection." I also disliked the contrast between the absurdist shetl faux family history and the realistic Ukranian search for family history - I don't mind absurdism, but the contrast made that whole side of the story seem really pointless.
Upon reading this book, I found my new favorite contemporary author. The introspection of the author in a semi-autobiographical fashion really grabbed me. I just had to make it through the first 50 pages, which at times annoyed, and bored slightly. Get through that, and you'll find the gem I did. This is the only piece that takes away 1/2 star for me. It had me laughing, crying, and wanting to throw the book across the room - something I had not felt since reading Pearl S. Buck's book "The Good Earth" in high school. Years ago...
I am not a huge fan of Foer but did like his other book, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, better than this one. I suppose if you are "into" this kind of (family/Jewish/East European) history, it would be very interesting, but I thought he went on a bit and he lost my interest.