Saturday, March 7, 2015

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close - Jonathan Safran Foer

This novel is set in the aftermath of 9/11 and is narrated by nine year old Oskar Schell, who lost his father in the World Trade Center terrorist attacks. Little Oskar struggles with the death of his father and suffers from depression, insomnia and panic attacks. Oskar is a bit of an outcast with not many friends his own age. He is incredibly clever and very trusting of strangers. I'll admit that right off the bat, I was very nervous for this young boy to set off on a journey alone through New York City, but it ended up being fun!
The journey really begins for Oskar after he finds a key hidden inside an envelope in his father's closet. The envelope has the word "Black" written on the outside, but that is the only clue. Curious about the key, Oskar sets out to find its lock, hoping it will bring him closer to his father. He looks up the name "Black" in the phone book, and sets off on his journey in alphabetical order. Oskar meets many people along this journey including Abby Black, a man known only as "the renter", and his elderly neighbor, Mr. A Black. All of these characters help paint a very colorful narrative of this important journey of discovery for Oskar.
Many months into his journey, Abby Black confesses to Oskar that she might be able to help him find the key's owner after all and sends Oskar to see her ex-husband, William Black. William Black helps Oskar discover the true origin of the key. I'm not much into spoilers - so you'll have to go read the book to find out what happens!
This novel has a parallel narrative that is told through letters written by Oskar's grandparents. This narrative eventually meets up with the main story line and eventually helps Oskar understand his roots and his importance in the world.
Overall, I was very torn with this novel. On the one hand, the story line was clever and engaging. Oskar has a very unique view of the world and Foer really brings a child's imagination to life through his words and descriptions. On the other hand, the narrative left me a bit out of breath trying to keep up. Perhaps that was the point as I would imagine it's difficult for any adult to keep up with a 9 year old.
In the end, I think Foer did a nice job of taking a serious and difficult topic and putting a rather whimsical spin on it in order to make its point. It's definitely worth picking up and joining Oskar on his journey through New York.
Rating: Fair 6 out of 10

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