Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
by Jonathan Safran Foer
Summary: Jonathan Safran Foer emerged as one of the most original writers of his generation with his best-selling debut novel, Everything Is Illuminated. Now, with humor, tenderness, and awe, he confronts the traumas of our recent history.
Nine-year-old Oskar Schell has embarked on an urgent, secret mission that will take him through the five boroughs of New York. His goal is to find the lock that matches a mysterious key that belonged to his father, who died in the World Trade Center on the morning of September 11. This seemingly impossible task will bring Oskar into contact with survivors of all sorts on an exhilarating, affecting, often hilarious, and ultimately healing journey.
This was a unique, strangely written, yet beautiful and heart wrenching novel. Oskar was a wonderful narrator, wise beyond his years, yet naïve in some ways. The reader experiences Oskar’s adventures and his growth.
When I started reading, my first reaction to the book was also the title of the first chapter: What the? What on earth was I reading? It was a big jumbled together mess of observations. But then I realized that Oskar is nine. What else would his narration be? It certainly wouldn’t be incredibly coherent, intelligently put together, with no ramblings. Of course Oskar would stray from his current train of thought and stumble upon another.
Skimming through other reviews has made me think a little bit harder about this particular tactic used by the author. Some say it was gimmicky. There are some blank pages, some pages with a picture, a couple of words, a newspaper article, a screenshot, scribbles, and pictures of doorknobs. It’s kind of odd, but it wasn’t aggravating to me at all. Some say the author way trying to hard. I think the real question is whether or not it worked. In my opinion, it worked. Perhaps if the writing felt pretentious, I’d feel differently, but all of the gimmicks worked well in this novel. I’ve discovered while reading this book that I enjoy strangely written novels. I enjoy story lines that don’t follow traditional routes. This book just worked for me. Once I passed the first few pages, I realized that I could get on board with the style of writing. I realize this is a book that won’t appeal for everyone and leads to the questions of whether or not it’s trying too hard to be what it is or it’s gimmicky and purposely plays on your emotions and does certain things to get a reaction from the reader. The best way to answer those questions for yourself is to give it a try.
While the reader is following Oskar’s quest to unravel the mystery of the key found in his father’s room, another plot takes shape. Oskar’s grandfather and grandmother have their own stories to tell, their own mysteries to unravel. Both quests were equally interesting and their connections to each other mattered.
This book is so much. It’s about so many things. It gave me heavy boots. It was deep, it was heart wrenching, it was sad, it was scientific, it was logical, it was terrible, it was hilarious. It was life. It was human.
I can’t really say enough to do this book any justice. Here are some quotes:
I think and think and think, I’ve thought myself out of happiness one million times, but never once into it.
I got a little disappointed, because it would have been a logical explanation, which is always the best kind, although fortunately it isn’t the only kind.
But I knew that there couldn’t be pockets that enormous. In the end, everyone loses everyone. There was no invention to get around that, and so I felt, that night, like the turtle that everything else in the universe was on top of.
I wondered, for the first time in my life, if life was worth all the work it took to live. What exactly made it worth it? What’s so horrible about being dead forever, and not feeling anything, and not even dreaming? What’s so great about feeling and dreaming?
…found a station playing “Hey Jude.” It was true, I didn’t want to make it bad. I wanted to take the sad song and make it better. It’s just that I didn’t know how.
I looked at everyone and wondered where they came from, and who they missed, and what they were sorry for.
I definitely recommend this book. Sure, it’s one of those heart wrenching books that try to make you cry, but it’s also one of those books that deals with being human and feeling and thinking and wondering why.