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Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer (thoughts)

February 15, 2012

From the publisher’s website:
Nine-year-old Oskar Schell has embarked on an urgent, secret mission that will take him through the five boroughs of New York. His goal is to find the lock that matches a mysterious key that belonged to his father, who died in the World Trade Center on the morning of September 11. This seemingly impossible task will bring Oskar into contact with survivors of all sorts on an exhilarating, affecting, often hilarious, and ultimately healing journey.

I finished Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close more than a week ago, and I’ve been having trouble gathering my thoughts on it. The gist of those thoughts? I loved it. It was heartbreaking and sad, yes, but also so very funny and clever. And that Oskar. What a character he is. There’s something about child narrators, and solemn child characters in general, that bring about some of the most honest and heartbreaking moments (I’m looking at you Jean). Oskar has lived through something horrible and is holding so much inside himself, and watching him try to process it all is at times heart wrenching. But he’s such a unique kid that some of this observations on life and his interactions with the people he meets are hilarious.

One thing that I really liked about this book was that while it takes place in the after of September 11, it’s not a September 11 Book. It’s about grief (from a number of sources), family, forgiveness. I don’t know about anyone else who has read this, but I found that Foer rode the line of SO SAD extremely well. I would be reading an immensely sad part and thinking ‘The tears! They are a-coming!’, and Foer would change pace and the tears would stay put. EL&IC could have very easily been a sob fest of a book, but instead Foer very rarely pushed passed that line and when he finally did, it was almost a relief to let the tears flow.

Also, I love when authors try creative ways to tell their story, and Foer pulls this off fantastically. The intertwining stories are told not only using words, but also spaces and blank pages and line spacing and pictures. Everything worked together so beautifully that the book wouldn’t have been the same if any one of those extras had been left out.

And that’s about all I have to say on this one. The feel of the book reminded me a lot of Everything Beautiful Began After by Simon Van Booy (but less devastating), and I now want to read everything else by Foer. But the movie? Is that worth watching?

My rating: 9/10
Source: Borrowed from a friend

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11 Comments leave one →
  1. February 15, 2012 7:43 am

    What a beautiful review. This sounds really powerful and you expressed your thoughts eloquently. You have me thinking this is a story best read (not listened to).

    • February 15, 2012 10:02 am

      Totally best read, and in physical format, not ebook. I’m sure it would still be an alright story in either audio or digital formats, but there’s so much you would miss out on.

  2. February 15, 2012 8:45 am

    I love this book. I love Foer. Read Everything is Illuminated, yes…but prepare yourself for it to be REALLY odd and to have A LOT of Magical Realism. You have to go in with a completely open mind.

    • February 15, 2012 10:03 am

      Thanks for the heads up! I probably would have gone into it expecting something exactly like EL&IC.

  3. February 15, 2012 1:23 pm

    I’ve been kinda scared of this one. I shouldn’t be? My daughter has to read it for school (college) so I thought I’d join her, maybe.

    P.S. You’ve been tagged! On my blog. I hope that’s okay. If not, no worries.

    • February 15, 2012 2:15 pm

      If your favourite book is The Book Thief, I think you can handle this one. You should definitely read it with your daughter! It’s the kind of book that prompts discussion, so it would be great to have someone to talk to about it while you’re reading.

  4. February 15, 2012 6:22 pm

    I really want to read this one. Your review is so honest and convinced me to read the book even though it’s heartbreaking (which I try to stay away from) but Foer’s writing sounds too good to pass up.

  5. February 18, 2012 6:55 am

    Awsome review, Alita! I’ve been on the fence, but now I think I should give this one a try. The movie too!

  6. February 19, 2012 7:43 pm

    I absolutely loved this book when I read it several years ago, primarily because of Oskar. A lady at work started reading it and didn’t like it and now I just look at her and think, “What’s wrong with you?” :-) I’ve been a little curious about the movie, but I’m afraid it will ruin my memories of the book.

  7. February 20, 2012 4:43 pm

    Oh, I’m so excited about reading this for book club now.

  8. February 27, 2012 4:35 pm

    i’ve heard a ton about foer, but didn’t really pay much attention to this book until i saw the previews for it for the movie. i’m so glad to see that you enjoyed reading this one! i’m definitely adding this one to my wishlist. the previews looked amazing, and i love your review of the book!

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