Title: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Author: Jonathan Safran Foer
Release Date: April 4, 2006
Publisher: Mariner Books
Genre: Literary Fiction
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4 out of 5
Oskar Schell is nine years old and is haunted by the death of his father, who was in the World Trade Center when the planes struck. While looking through his father’s things, he finds an envelope with a key in it, and embarks on a quest to discover what his father might have left behind for him.
Though it’s been 10 years since 9/11, the memory of those events is still fresh in most of our minds. It’s especially relevant for those who live in New York City and Washington, DC - many of us believe that it’s not a matter of if, but when, the next terrorist strike will occur. With that in mind, when the 10th anniversary of 9/11 was approaching, I wanted to read a book in order to remember, and so I chose Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.
Oskar Schell is an extremely precocious nine-year-old. Wise beyond his years, he struggles to understand the world around him and is a jack of all trades. I found Oskar to be endearing, but contrived at times; while I enjoyed reading about him, he was in no way believable as an actual person. Foer did a wonderful job writing Oskar’s emotions, though. Oskar is a jumbled mess, grasping at straws in order to come to some sense of peace over his father’s death. In that sense, he was just a regular nine-year-old boy, and I really felt for him.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is written in a very unique way. There are pictures, blank pages, and other textual devices in order to make the reading experience different. I enjoyed the way the author structured the novel because it made for an adventure in and of itself. Sometimes the pictures spoke even louder than words - the images at the back of the novel deliver a profound sadness, especially when seen out of context.
Jonathan Safran Foer is an exceptionally talented novelist, and though this is my first of his novels, I can definitely say it won’t be the last. It took me some time to get used to Oskar, and even once I did, sometimes his sheer precociousness would draw me out of the narrative. However, the book was beautifully written, sentimental without giving way to complete cheesiness, and is very moving. I think it’s a wonderful tribute to 9/11, examining the impact of one man’s senseless death on the members of his family, and I couldn’t have asked for a better novel to read on the 10th anniversary of that horrific event.