Review of “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” by Jonathan Safran Foer

Thomas Schell (sr.) tattooed Yes and No on his hands after he lost his words.
Thomas Schell (sr.) tattooed Yes and No on his hands after he lost his words.

If you, like me, saw the movie adaptation of ” Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” you are under the impression that a son who lost his father in 9/11 is the whole story. Reading the book, I realized that’s only half of it — literally.

On its surface, the book is about Oskar Schell and his attempt to cope with losing his father in 9/11. His father had always played games with him and made him investigate everything. So when Oskar finds an envelope with the name “Black” written on it and a key inside, he thinks it’s his father’s last great mystery.

He goes all around New York talking to everyone named Black, searching for the one of 162 million locks the key could open.

What the movie doesn’t shed light upon is the side story of Oskar’s grandparents. Letters from Oskar’s grandparents are featured every other chapter or so. If you read the book, you’ll see exactly why they left it out — the story is far from ordinary.

This is the only book by Jonathan Safran Foer that I have read, but from other’s reviews, I would say this book matches up to his unique writing style. While I can see someone making the argument that the side stories detracted from the story, I feel like it just showed that every character has his or her own story to tell.

Oskar is a very interesting character to me. Although he is sometimes an unreliable narrator, he has a unique point of view even as a child (It’s not confirmed in either book or film, but I’d guess he had a form of Aspergers or other autism). He has such a curious mind and a keen understanding of some things but he lacks the ability to deal with his emotions. One of the quotes in my previous post says it best.

I’ve thought myself out of happiness one million times, but never once into it.

I’m not sure what kind of grade I would give this book but it’s definitely an interesting read. If you ever find yourself curious while watching the movie, I’d definitely pick it up.

One more thing: 9/11 obviously plays a huge role in the book. I think the New York Times did a wonderful job characterizing the victims of that horrible tragedy: Check out their “Portraits in Grief.”

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

-K

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