Book Review: “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” by Jonathan Safran Foer

May 26, 2012 by

Book Review: "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" by Jonathan Safran FoerIt has been two years since 9/11.  Oskar Schell is ten years old, and lost his father Thomas in the tragedy, and he is obviously still dealing with his loss.  Who wouldn’t be?  But one day, Oskar finds a key among his father’s belongings and believes it is one last mystery his father had left for him to solve.  As Oskar searches for the lock that will fit the key all over New York City, he slowly heals and allows himself to feel his grief.

I think this is the first novel I’ve read that deals specifically with the aftermath of 9/11.  I can’t believe that it has been almost 11 years since that terrible day when thinking about it, remembering still hurts so much. My heart just aches.  Oskar puts a face to just one of the stories of those directly affected – sure he is a fictionalized character, but it isn’t a tough stretch to believe in a kid who lost his father; his father who just happened to have a meeting in that building that morning.  The way that Oskar’s grief manifests itself in his personality is heartbreaking.  He is carrying so much inside of him.  His mother, his grandmother, his therapist all so their best to help…  but it is this challenge that is metaphorically and literally the key to Oskar’s grief.

A secondary story line is uncovered that involves Oskar’s Grandmother, her husband, her sister, and the thousands of lives lost in the bombing of Dresden at the time of her youth.   There is also an elderly mute man who factors into the story, and with Oskar’s as well.  I’ll admit that this subplot was confusing to me at first, then made me feel sad, and finally all out depressed.  Balancing the bombing of Dresden against the bombing of the World Trade Center (with a tangent concerning the horrors seen at the atomic bombing of Nagasaki) pushed me right past my emotional threshold.  I began to feel so much, that I finally felt hollow and spent.

For this reason, I did not enjoy reading this book at all.  Each time I went to pick the book up to continue, I did so with trepidation.  What horribly sad thing was to happen now??  The writing is awesome, the characters are more than you could hope for… and it is all so great that reading was not a likable experience for me.  I should also mention, in the interests of full disclosure, that while I was reading this book, there was a sudden death of a beloved family member.  That upended my state of emotional well-being, and I think that my opinion of this book has been affected by that as well.   In fact, I do remember finding humor in some of Oskar’s conversations and thoughts when I had first started the book…  but I lost them, after.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
by Jonathan Safran Foer
Mariner Books, 2006.  First published 2005.
326 pages
Source:  Borrowed from my cousin
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