Title: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Author: Jonathan Safran Foer
On the Shelves: Fiction> Contemporary
Nine-year-old Oskar Schell is an inventor, amateur entomologist, Francophile, letter writer, pacifist, natural historian, percussionist, romantic, Great Explorer, jeweller, detective, vegan, and collector of butterflies. When his father is killed in the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Centre, Oskar sets out to solve the mystery of a key he discovers in his father’s closet. It is a search which leads him into the lives of strangers, through the five boroughs of New York, into history, to the bombings of Dresden and Hiroshima, and on an inward journey which brings him ever closer to some kind of peace. (Goodreads 2014)
“Sometimes I can hear my bones straining under the weight of all the lives I’m not living”
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, I admit, is one of those books where the author’s writing is what makes it so memorable. So many sentences in this book hurt my heart and my head. This book follows a young boy named Oskar, whose father sadly died in the 9/11 attacks. Oskar believes his father left a key in a box in his closet. Oskar, who had previously played a lot of detective games with his father which spread out across New York City, Oskar believes this key is one last adventure inteded by his dad, and so sets out to discover what the key unlocks. This book is about the people he sees and interacts with along the way, leading to some happy, some sad, and some heart wrenching scenes.
One interesting factor about this book is simply the format. The book is standard type but then is also mixed in with photography (which, as a warning, contains some shocking images one or twice), big red circles as if marked by a sharpie pen, and at one point, a page or two not unlike that which you see in Patrick Ness’ Knife of Never Letting Go, as the narration shows Oskar processing everything he is learning and occasionally becoming overcome with emotion and grief for what has happened. I can’t talk about the plot too much because obviously it is full of spoilers. But this book is one that left a mark for me. I consider it memorable for it’s narration, mostly. But also I was surprised by the amount of empathy I felt for Oskar, as I have read similar characters where I have not formed any sort of emotional attachment to them and didn’t really care about them- I cared about Oskar. I wanted him to find some sort of closure for his shock of the sudden death of his father. I wanted him to make sense of the horrible world we live in. I wanted him to feel like he was going to be okay.
“So many people enter and leave your life! Hundreds of thousands of people!
You have to keep the door open so they can come in! But it also means you have to let them go!”