Friday, March 2, 2012

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
Jonathan Safran Foer

This is a story of Oskar, a young boy trying to make sense of his father's death two years after 9/11.  He finds a key in his father's things and decides if he can find what the key opens it will bring him closer to his father in some way.

As he searches for the mysterious lock that the key must fit we learn some about his ancestors and his past.  His grandmother lives alone in the apartment building across the street from him.  We learn about the grandfather he never met and the war and bombings his grandparents survived in Europe years earlier.  We meet the elderly man who lives in the apartment above Oskar but never leaves his apartment.  We meet people all around the city named "Black" as Oskar believes that name is a clue to finding the lock the key fits.

While looking for the key the stories are intertwined and the horrors of 9/11 are presented side by side with the horrors of World War II, the senselessness and human suffering.

I found parts of this book absolutely wonderful and captivating in detail, description and story telling.  However, I found even more of the book tedious to read due to the way it was written.  The author writes much of the story from Oskar's perspective, that of a ten year old boy who has suffered through a terrible tragedy, has secrets that are tearing him up and can't stop imagining the horrible scenarios his father may have died in. Some of the book is written as letters to people who will never read them, and other parts as conversation between a mute and a speaking person.  None of the conversation in the book is written in correct grammatical form, but in long paragraphs with only quotation marks separating one speaker from another.

I can appreciate what the author was doing in making his style actually a part of the story telling, but I found it difficult and distracting to read.  Part of my rating system for books is questioning myself as to whether I would read the same book again.  This book almost begs to be read a second time, but I honestly don't think I could.  How do I rate a book like that?

I'm going to give it two shots of five.  I think this is one of those books you will either love or hate and I feel less inclined to love it.

As a side note, this author also wrote "Everything is Illuminated."  I didn't read that book but saw the movie based on it and thought it was quite odd, too.  I suspect I just don't 'get' this author.     


  1. So bummed you didn't like this book!!! I enjoyed it and really enjoyed the way the two stories paralleled each other. I also like the randomness of the story from the boy's perspective. I can tell you kids his age tend to be rather random in their thought by my experience in the classroom. I loved the characters he ran into when "resarching" the key. I enjoyed the book. I want to see the movie, now!

  2. I didn't hate it. Some parts were incredibly well written in style and theme. But much of the writing was presented as it's own art form which was distracting to me. I do want to see the movie, I haven't given up hope, yet!