Welcome back to our “Here I Am” online book club! We’ve come to Section VIII, “Home.” Catch up on previous discussion guides here.

Roughly 75 days and 571 pages later, we have come to the end of “Here I Am.” It’s been a long and twisty journey, and along the way we’ve learned a number of things:

Truth can be subjective—there is the truth of accuracy and the truth of experience.

I’m thinking about the fact that Sam really is the graffiti culprit, and about the nature of Irv’s death. I’m thinking about Jacob’s failure to launch and about the destruction of Israel that wasn’t. I’m thinking about Julia’s relationship with Mark and about Benjy naming Jacob’s new house “Wailing House.”

Related

You can’t choose your family.

Jacob and Tamir’s mutual annoyance with each other does not break the bond of family. It may thin as the definition of family expands, not only across the ocean, but to the furthest shoots of the family tree. That bond may thin, but there it remains, even when it breaks your heart.

Jewish identity is a marathon, not a 5K or relay.

Jonathan Safran Foer writes that “Jewish Americans, who will go to any length, short of practicing Judaism, to instill a sense of Jewish identity in their children” (page 196). While it’s true there are myriad factors that influence it, identity doesn’t just appear. Previous generations didn’t need to instill Jewish identity; it was the air they breathed. For us, the choices we make and the choices we avoid are all we have to rely on. There’s no one else who can do that work for us.

A dog can live a really long time after a terminal diagnosis.

Argus’s life across the novel is a painful parable for Jacob’s life. No doubt named after Argos, Odysseus’s dog in “The Odyssey,” Argus’s death represents the same for Jacob as Argos’s did for Odysseus—the narrative of their lives comes home and they let go of their own suffering. In both “The Odyssey” and the vet’s office, a narrative voice proclaims, “This is the dog of a man who died far away.”

So here we are. Sometimes we have to travel a great distance to find ourselves, but we can only be fully present after taking that journey. “Life is precious,” Jacob thinks, “and I live in the world.” Despite the tempest, it is our world and we must inhabit it with wide open and appreciative eyes. Be here. Be here now.

Thank you for Reading On with us for the past 75 days. We hope these discussion guides have deepened your connection with the book and inspired you to think beyond its pages.

Please join us on April 26 and have all your questions answered as CJP’s Learning and Engagement Commission welcomes Foer for a compelling conversation about “Here I Am.” Find more information and registration details here.

Read On with CJP’s Jewish Learning and Engagement here. And order a hardcover copy of the book here, a Kindle version here and a paperback version (coming in June) here.