Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
by Jonathan Safran Foer
This was an extremely good book. I watched the movie first because it won a bunch of awards. The movie was so emotional and so good I had to read the book.
Sometimes it is better to see a movie before you read the book. To me, this was one of those times, I think. I listen to Books on CDs at work. And sometimes I can concentrate on the book and sometimes I have to concentrate on work. I had to listen to this book 2 times. BUT it was so good that I loved it even better the second time.
The main story is a drama that “follows the journey of a nine-year-old boy as he attempts to solve a family mystery.”
Oskar, a studious 9-year-old who either has Asperger’s syndrome, “has heavy boots, as he calls feeling down, because he carries a secret he hasn’t shared with anybody else. He was sent home from school soon after the attacks on 9/11 and was the first one home. There he found five messages from his father calling from one of the World Trade Towers on the answering machine, and he replaced the phone and kept the messages to himself. He likes to be in his father’s closet because ‘it made my boots lighter to be around his things, and to touch stuff that he touched.’ He finds a vase on the highest shelf of the closet, and inside the vase he finds a key in an envelope. The only thing written on the envelope is “Black.”
This key sets Oskar off on a quest to find the story behind it, to find the secret that his father kept, in hopes that it would help him understand his dad better. He computes how many keys and how many locks there must be in New York City, and decides that “Black” must be somebody’s last name. Starting with the top of the alphabet for all the Blacks in the phonebook, he then sets out every weekend to visit them in order and see if they know anything about his father or the key. Most of the people he visits also seem to be dealing with some sort of loss in their lives, and Oskar is often at a loss how to interact with them. He finds a Mr. Black in his own building, a 103-year old war reporter who hasn’t left his apartment or heard anything since his wife died. He is so taken by Oskar’s quest that he agrees to accompany him on his journeys across town. Mr. Black tells Oskar, “It’s not a horrible world . . . but it’s filled with a lot of horrible people.” Eventually Oskar is aided by the mysterious tenant in his grandmother’s apartment, and Oskar convinces him to help dig up his father’s empty casket.
Other underlying stories are about his grandmother and grandfather and their lives in Europe during World War 2. Although sometimes it is not so easy to follow, I like the underlying stories almost as much as Oskar’s story.
Yes, it is emotional but a great thought provoking book. I recommend reading it 2 times. And maybe even watching the movie first to get the basic premise of the book. LOVED IT!