Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2005)
Jonathan Safran Foer
Jonathan Safran Foer, born in Washington DC in 1977, faced a challenge when writing ‘Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close’; he had to equal his acclaimed debut ‘Everything Is Illuminated’ (2002). He definitely succeeded; his second novel does not just live up to, but exceeds expectations. For the second time Foer has managed to create a work of genius.
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close tells the story of Oskar Schell, a highly intelligent, single-minded, tenacious nine year old boy. Oskar often has ‘heavy boots’, the term he uses to describe feeling down; he is struggling with the loss of his father, who was a victim of the 9/11 attacks. His mother already has a new man in her life and Oskar feels she is moving on too quickly. As a result he feels disconnected from her, but he is very close to his grandmother who lives across the street. A year after his father’s tragic death, Oskar finds a vase his father’s closet and when he accidentally breaks it, he stumbles upon an envelope with ‘Black’ written on it and a key inside. This is the beginning of Oskar’s quest; he decides to visit everyone in New York named ‘Black’, hoping to find the lock which matches the key. This journey leads to some striking encounters, but more importantly is interwoven with Oskar’s fascinating inner journey. The story of Oskar’s quest is alternated with letters written by his grandparents, some of which are addressed to Oskar and others to Oskar's father. In these letters they reveal their life stories, which have been significantly affected by the bombing of Dresden, their home in Germany, during World War II. I intensely enjoyed this book from beginning to end. Foer’s writing is humorous and playful but at the same time moving and emotionally charged. The different narratives were confusing sometimes, but the story was so compelling that this wasn’t disturbing. On the contrary: it increased your curiosity and...
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