Once in a great while, a book comes along that changes the way you look at everything: the world, love, hate, relationships, politics. Such is the case with EVERYTHING IS ILLUMINATED. Now, not everyone is going to warm to this novel, but keep reading: "Everything is Illuminated" is the story of a young American (also with the name Jonathan Safran Foer, but this is a work of fiction) who travels to Ukraine to find the woman who saved his grandfather from the holocaust. In the process the book tells several stories: the American's trip to the Ukraine, the story of his grandfather and the town history, his Ukrainian translator's personal struggles with family and identity, and his Ukrainian translator's grandfathers experience during the war. These stories are told in different voices, in different chapters interspersed throughout the book. Some of these work better than others, as Foer seems to have a desire to stretch into literary gimmicks that are not always neccesary. But when he gets it right the passages are as moving as anything I have ever read. His variety of voices allows a reflection on certain elements of the story that reinforces their meaning. Writing about love, personal history, death, and living on allows ample opportunity to take on issues that go to the heart of what it means to be human. It also creates the possibility of falling into a bottomless pit of reflection, over-analysis, and huge failure. This book flirts with those pitfalls at times, but never falls in. It creates scenes of incredible trauma, and manages to tell the story in a way that seems real (a significant achievement for a writer born in 1977). I am struggling to even describe the book, which speaks the complexity of the story and the skill in telling it. I am sure that my enjoyment of the book was enhanced by witnessing first hand some of the absurdity of life in Ukraine, but that is only part of the story. This is a riveting book, often spoken of in the same breath as "Bark of the Dogwood" with its odd cast of characters. A perfect companion to this book, BARK OF THE DOGWOOD, while completely different subject material, is nevertheless as entertaining. Both are great reads all 'round, but EVERYTHING IS ILLUMINATED is like nothing else on the planet.