This is a PSA for all the other emotional pregnant ladies out there. If you’re anything like me, this book will make you flood your living room. Let’s be real here. These days I weep at Publix commercials and Barefoot Contessa episodes. So I really didn’t stand a chance when it came to reading about a little boy’s journey toward healing after his dad is killed on September 11th. Still, the back of the book promised that the journey would be touching but hilarious in parts. I never quite saw the hilarity. In fact, when I got to about page 300 or so, I turned to my husband, tears streaming down my face, and said “I don’t understand, when does it get hilarious?”
Lack of hilarity aside, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close was sweet, moving, creative and well-written. Nine-year-old Oskar Schell (well, he’s probably nine; he has a tendency to add or subtract years as it serves his purpose, making himself older if he thinks he has a chance at kissing a lady, younger if he wants sympathy) has been stuck in his own head since his dad died on 9/11, two years previous. Oskar’s life is difficult enough, between playground bullies, a mom who seems to be moving on with her life and a psychologist who irritates Oskar with his inane-bordering-on-offensive questions. But Oskar makes it much more difficult by constantly “inventing” in his head – from silly ideas like extra-long limos to torturing himself with the ways his dad might have died. Then one day, as Oskar goes through his dad’s possessions, he finds a mysterious key in an envelope with one word written on it: “Black.” Oskar’s dad always used to give him clues and quests, so he believes the key is one last game from his dad and he sets off on a journey through New York City, looking for the lock the key opens. Oskar thinks the quest is a way for him to stay close to his dad… but in fact, it’s his path to healing. On this path he encounters New Yorkers of all ages, some of whom share their own survival and healing experiences with him. Meanwhile, Oskar’s story is interwoven with that of his grandparents, who survived the Dresden bombing in World War II but each carry their own emotional scars.
I’d never read any of Jonathan Safran Foer’s fiction works, although I liked his veggie manifesto, Eating Animals. In Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close I recognized a number of similarities to Safran Foer’s non-fiction – particularly the use of illustrations and wordplay to supplement the story. While I was a weepy mess throughout the book, I thought Oskar’s story was beautiful. Recommended.
Get the book! Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, by Jonathan Safran Foer (not an affiliate link)