Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Jonathan Safran Foer travels to Ukraine to find the woman who may or may not have saved his father from the Nazis in Trachimbrod—his family shtetl, or village. He hires as his personal translator Alexander Perchiv, a young Ukrainian man, to help him in this quest. Alex is accompanied by his grumpy grandfather, who is officially the driver for the trip, and his dog, Sammy Davis, Junior, Junior, whose temper is rather unpredictable.
Alex’s father asks him to help the American Jew in his search because doing so will enable the wayward young Ukrainian to earn some money. In addition, Alex is the only one in the family who can be of help because he has been studying English at the university. He speaks a peculiar form of broken English, and his narrative sounds as though it has been pieced together with the help of a thesaurus. Parts of his story represent the letters he sends to Jonathan in America.
At the same time, Jonathan’s letters to Alex narrate a quasi-magical history of his family in Trachimbrod. These tales are part of a novel that Jonathan plans to write. They begin with the story of the 1791 drowning of Trachim, Jonathan’s great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather. Trachim’s daughter, Brod, is the only one to survive the accident, and the citizens of the shtetl must find a foster family to raise her. The choice is made in a lottery, and Yankel D, who has lost his own wife and children, becomes Brod’s foster father....
(The entire section is 1055 words.)
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