Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Book No: 45
Title:Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Author: Jonathan Safron Foer
Genre: Fiction
Completed: 8/13/09
No. of Pages: N/A
Rating: 5/5*****

I have been thinking about my review of this book for the last few weeks, finding it hard to put my thoughts into words. I approached this book with a lot of trepidation; I live outside of NYC and unfortunately know too many people who lost their husband, wives, parents and children on September 11th. I have had this book sitting on my shelf for several years and finally got up the courage to read it. I am so very, very grateful that I did.

Although the events of ‘The Worst Day’, as Oskar Schell the nine year old protagonist of the story calls September 11th, form the framework of this book, the story is more about how one accepts loss and learns to move on, albeit changed and damaged in some way. The book is about the horrors of war and terrorism and all the pain that is left for the survivors to experience and try to learn how to live again. It is a book that if filled with humor, sadness, tragedy and love.

Oskar is an extremely bright child nine year old. His father died at the World Trade Center on 9/11. When Oskar finds a key among his father’s possession, mysteriously labeled Black, he decides to set out to find the lock the key will fit. His search sets him on a journey in which he encounters people from all different walks of life, each of which seems to have some small impact on his life. When Oskar finally learns the meaning of the key he also reveals a secret he has been living with since the death of his dad. Interlaced between Oskar’s search is the story of his grandparents, survivors of the bombing of Dresden during WWII.

I think part of the beauty of this book is in the depiction of Oskar. He’s intelligent, but Foer doesn’t make him sound mature, he’s still a little boy and he can be rude, obnoxious, sweet, funny, cruel and at times remarkably perceptive; he’s very much like many little boys I’ve known. There were so many times I just wanted to reach out and hug this child. I found his relationship with his grandmother very touching and often charming. The story of his grandparent’s life plays out rather slowly and at times it seems a preposterous life, but it juxtaposes nicely with Oskar’s own attempt at making sense out of unbearable tragedy. In the end we are left with a feeling of hope that healing is possible.

I love Foer’s use of language and his skill at evoking a reaction from you; he has the ability to mix humor and pathos, frequently in the same sentence. He also paints indelible pictures in your mind, not by the retelling of unfathomable events but by his characters reactions to these acts. There were times I had to stop reading because I could not see through my tears.

This was an outstanding book one that will stay with me a long time. I am planning on reading Foer’s first book, Everything is Illuminated, very soon.

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