Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

I think that the first time I heard of this book was from another blog on wordpress.  Books like this are why I’m happy that I started my blog.  There are quite a few books that I never would have read had I not started blogging.  After I had been posting for a couple of weeks, I started to really get into the community aspect of blogging, with surfing through other blogs and seeing what other people have had to say about a variety of topics.  And it led me to hear about books such as this, which I’m glad to have read.  Anyway, enough rambling for now, on with the review.

Book Stats

326 pages

Drama

Characters

The book primarily follows the viewpoint of Oskar Schell, a 9 year old boy who lost his father in the WTC attack on 9/11.  Oskar is a very intelligent young person who is also very eccentric.  For example, he will only wear white, and even being only 9 years old he declares himself to be a vegan.  In between Oskar’s sections of the book there are chapters from the viewpoints of his grandparents.  Both of his grandparents have dealt with difficult losses in their lives, much like Oskar is dealing with throughout the course of the book.  This does an excellent job of tying all of their viewpoints together, even though they’re all dealing with different issues.

Setting

New York City, 2001 to 2003.  The sections from his grandparents are from earlier in their lives, 1960’s NYC as well as Dresden, Germany.

Plot

After Oskar’s father dies during the 9/11 attack, Oskar finds a key in a vase that his father kept.  Thinking that this was a clue to a game that he and his father would play, he set out to search for the lock which matches the key.  Over the course of his search he learns a lot about his own feelings as well as plans that his father had made prior to dying.

Enjoyment

I really enjoyed this book.  There were a lot of emotionally powerful scenes that were exactly what you would expect from a 9 year old boy who recently lost his father.  It was also interesting to watch the unfolding of the story from multiple angles, Oskar and his grandparents.  This is one book that is really all about the journey through life and how we hang on to the smallest things to help us through our day.

The book also had several lines that I loved.  “I’ve thought myself out of happiness one million times, but never once into it.”  That sentence might be the most truthful line ever written.

I do have two issues with the book.  The first is that the narrative structure is a little difficult to get into at first.  When you’re first given the viewpoint from Oskar’s grandparents, you’re thrown into a flashback from early in their lives.  I didn’t know exactly how it fit in with the main story and as a result I was a little confused with some of their early chapters.  For my other main issue with the book, I don’t know if there was a way it could have been handled better.  Throughout the book, Oskar is 9 to 11 years old.  I had a hard time thinking that a child that young would be able to analyze everything the way he did.  I also had a problem with the fact that he was just wandering around New York like he was.  I don’t think my parents would have wanted me wandering around Akron Ohio (near where I live) when I was 9, I can’t imagine any parents letting a 9 year old wander around New York.  The reason I don’t think it could have been handled better is simple, if he was older, I think I would have been thrown out by the innocence that Oskar showed throughout the course of the novel.

Overall Grade

A wonderful book that shows different ways that people deal with tragedy in their lives, wrapped around one of the worst events of our lifetimes.

9/10

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9 Comments

  1. Thanks, Adam, for the informative review. Very timely since the movie is just coming out. ATM, my book queue is incredibly long, so for now, I may go see the flick and look at the book later.

    Reply
    • I don’t know how well the book would translate to movie form. I don’t go see movies very often, I’d probably wait to hear what people have to say before I go see this one.

      Reply
  2. hannahrose42

     /  January 14, 2012

    It sounds pretty good… I enjoyed Everything Is Illuminated, and then added this and a few of his others to my ever-growing to-read list. Jonathan Safran Foer definitely writes in an interesting way.
    By your description of Oskar’s age and the fact that he is eccentric… also made me wonder if that’s realistic. I suppose there are a lot of precocious kids out there, though.
    For some reason, this reminded me of the movie Tideland. Well, there is a young girl, and her father dies, and she is indeed a strange child who is allowed to wander where she pleases. I wouldn’t recommend that movie for the faint of heart, but it was definitely interesting… A little off topic, but close enough to mention!

    Reply
    • I meant to put this in my review, but when I was actually writing it I forgot about this. Oskar really reminded me of the main character from The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. It’s never actually said in the book, but the way he’s written Oskar definitely acts like he belongs somewhere on the autistic spectrum. Definitely not fully autistic, but probably closer to Asperger Syndrome.

      Reply
  3. I had to read this when i was a freshman in college because the school i was going to always had the incoming students read along with a community reading program the city has. In one of my classes we discussed the book, and then later in the semester Jonathan Safran Foer came to the school to speak about it. It was really interesting to hear his perspective on things and to hear him explain why he did what he did.

    Reply
    • My freshman year in college we had to read The Ditchdigger’s Daughters, which I actually enjoyed to some extent. It didn’t help that I skipped several of freshman level courses (specifically English 101) and it was never discussed in any of my classes.

      I think it would be really interesting to use this book for a class or even to have a reading group discuss this book, because there is a lot that you could talk about in this book.

      Reply
  4. Hmm, thanks for the review! This is on my list to read now 🙂

    Reply
  5. Great review 🙂 This has also come across my radar this week due to the film, and although I’ve seen it before, I’ve never really looked into what it’s about. But it sounds fantastic, so I definitely think I’m going to give it a try too 🙂

    Reply
  6. I’ve heard great things about this book and movie. I was told to take tissues to the movie and I’m not sure I’m up for that right now!

    Reply

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