Book Review: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
Goodreads|Purchasing
Release Date: April 2006
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Rating: ★★★★☆


Goodreads description: “Jonathan Safran Foer confronts the traumas of our recent history. What he discovers is solace in that most human quality, imagination.” “Meet Oskar Schell, an inventor, Francophile, tambourine player, Shakespearean actor, jeweler, and pacifist. He is nine years old. And he is on an urgent, secret search through the five boroughs of New York. His mission is to find the lock that fits a mysterious key belonging to his father, who died in the World Trade Center on 9/11.” An inspired innocent, Oskar is alternately endearing, exasperating, and hilarious as he careens from Central Park to Coney Island to Harlem on his search. Along the way he is always dreaming up inventions to keep those he loves safe from harm. What about a birdseed shirt to let you fly away? What if you could actually hear everyone’s heartbeat? His goal is hopeful, but the past speaks a loud warning in stories of those who’ve lost loved ones before. As Oskar roams New York, he encounters a motley assortment of humanity who are all survivors in their own way. He befriends a 103-year-old war reporter, a tour guide who never leaves the Empire State Building, and lovers enraptured or scorned. Ultimately, Oskar ends his journey where it began, at his father’s grave. But now he is accompanied by the silent stranger who has been renting the spare room of his grandmother’s apartment. They are there to dig up his father’s empty coffin.

This book obviously isn’t new, but I’ve been wanting to read this book since I read Everything Is Illuminated by Foer. I’m okay with being late and I was glad to like this book as much as it. This book isn’t perfect by any means, but the general feel of it is genuine and likable. The characters have flaws, which is obviously realistic. It doesn’t end in a neatly tied package, which is a popular option for so many authors.

Oskar is an enjoyable narrator, even if he does seem a lot older than 9. He’s pretentious, but I think he’s supposed to be that way. His struggle with loss is heartbreaking. On his journey to learn more about his father, he learns a lot about his grandparents and his mother. Oskar’s inventing is interesting and enjoyable, one of my favorite inventions was the enormous pockets. Oskar understandably goes through a lot of emotions, and I am pleased with his progress at the end. It didn’t end perfectly and not everything is fixed, which made it more believable.

I really enjoyed the storyline about his grandparents, too. It was sad, but it was realistic.Their story is set in and after 1944, in wartime Dresden and in New York a few years after. There are flashbacks to life before the war and memories of bombings and loss. The story is heartbreaking and painful, but wonderful at the same time.

The whole story illustrates surviving grief, even at times when it might be easier or less painful to not survive. The characters give, take and make mistakes–which in my honest opinion, makes them more enjoyable. The words are so pretty and the story is heartbreaking-a lot of loss and regret, a lot of resentment and love. It might not be for everyone, but I would definitely recommend you to give it a shot!

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