my take: i love to travel, and i especially love to listen to guides speak English with an accent and misuse of our grammatical structure. so the opening lines of everything had me:
"My legal name is Alexander Perchov. But all of my many friends dub me Alex, because that is a more flaccid-to-utter version of my legal name. Mother dubs me Alexi-stop-spleening-me!, because I am always spleening her."
the book is made of several different styles - letters from alex to jonathan safran foer, chapters of a book jonathan is writing, and a narrative written by alex of the adventure of guiding jonathan in the ukraine. the novel chapters were my least favorite. the novel is about foer's great-great-great-great-grandparents in a small jewish schettel.
i liked the chapters that alex writes to jonathan. mostly for the language. all the various voices have heart break to tell. and each illuminates their truth in their own way.
my source: daughter anne, festival of faith & writing list
my verdict: worth a read. different and the same as extremely loud and incredibly close