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Review: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

extremely loud and incredibly closeI’m not going to use my traditional review format to write about Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer because, quite frankly, the book deserves better than that. In short, I thought this was an amazing read  — it broke my heart but still managed to leave me feeling a little bit warm and fuzzy in side.

This book is mostly about nine-year-old Oskar Schell. Two years before this book starts, Oskar’s father is killed in the terrorist attacks on 9/11. While going through his father’s stuff in a closet, Oskar comes across a key and becomes convinced if he can find the owner of the key he’ll find a message from his dad.

Foer simultaneously tells the story of Oskar’s grandparents who also had their lives thrown asunder by violence during the attacks in Dresen in WWII. The book constantly switches narrators without much do explain the switches and can make the book even more complicated.

The best part about this book is Oskar. He is a smart little kid, but also damaged. His heart was broken when his dad died, and I think Oskar hides behind this quirky, liberal, vegan, unique persona he’s created for himself. As he goes about his quest in the city, my heart was split between wanting him to find what he needed and wishing that someone else could find it for him so he could start to heal. He’s the kind of narrator you can’t help but root for.

This book is very complicated though. Foer is very postmodern, which means he writes and thinks about fragmentation and separation and feelings of isolation while using different media to draw the reader in. The book uses pictures, pages with sparse text, pages with text crowded on to it until you get this sort of disjointed and confused feeling.

I don’t normally like books about 9/11. Thinking about that particular day too much hurts because of what happened and how much it’s changed everything since.  I also have a hard time dealing with bad things happening to kids. So when you add those together things together and finally understand what happened to Oskar on 9/11, it’s a lot to take.

I remember starting to cry about 100 pages from the end of this book and just couldn’t stop. I finished, cried some more, and then calmed down a bit. Boyfriend was at my apartment was I was reading the book, so after I was calm he asked me to tell him about the story. As I tried to explain it I got all teary-eyed and started crying all over again. It was a lot, and that emotional reaction to the story has stuck with me.

But it is a lot in the best possible way. I loved this book so much. I loved it enough to make it only the second book I’ve reviewed on this blog to get the A+ Perfect Score Award!

a-perfect-score-smallHowever, I grant the award with a caveat — not everyone is going to like this book. If you can’t deal with fractured narrative or isolation or stories told in strange formats, you’re not going to like this. But if you can accept, heck, embrace the non-traditional style, you’ll be rewarded with a story that will stick with you for a long time.

Other Reviews: Lous Pages;

Rating: ★★★★★

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • bermudaonion August 18, 2009, 3:59 pm

    I don’t think I’ve ever read anything like that, but you’ve made the book sound so great I’d like to try.

  • Carrie August 18, 2009, 3:59 pm

    having been a graphic design major in college i especially loved the use of typography in this book

  • Michelle August 18, 2009, 5:20 pm

    I love when I read a book that is so touching I can’t stop thinking about it. Sometimes those are hard to find. Sounds like a great read!

  • Steph August 18, 2009, 5:25 pm

    I read and reviewed this one earlier this year and enjoyed it a good deal too. Like you, I tend to avoid books written about 9/11, but I thought this one was quite clever, and avoided being maudlin or exploitive. It didn’t resonate with me quite as much as it clearly did for you, but it was definitely a wonderful read.

  • charley August 18, 2009, 6:36 pm

    To me, this book felt like one long punch to the stomach. I don’t think I’ve ever cried with such intensity over a work of fiction.

  • Care August 18, 2009, 7:32 pm

    I’m going to try this again in the Fall. I just couldnt’ reconcile my pending mood with the sunny springtime season when I attempted to read this in April. This, so far, is one of those books I know I’ll love if I would just commit to it!

  • Suko August 18, 2009, 9:29 pm

    This does sound like a very intriguing book. Thanks to your well-written review, I may need to add this to my T.B.R. pile.

    (P.S. For another perspective on 9-11, try Saffron Dreams by Shaila Abdullah.)

  • Rebecca August 18, 2009, 9:46 pm

    Wonderful review. This sounds like a powerful read.

  • justicejenniferreads August 18, 2009, 10:24 pm

    This sounds like a book I would absolutely ADORE. I love books that do more than tell a sad story – sure an emotional reaction and connection to the characters is a great thing that I absolutely appreciate, but I also want the story to challenge me. I want it to make me think about the bigger picture – those crazy unanswerable questions. And after taking my literary theory class, I’m used to fractured narrative – although difficult at time, it can be extremely rewarding. You just have to remember to push though the confusion because the end usually provides amazing clarity.

  • Jenny August 19, 2009, 7:55 am

    Great review! I haven’t read this previously because, like you, I find it upsetting when bad things happen to children. But maybe I will give it a try after all. With a box of tissues next to me on the couch.

  • rebeccareid August 19, 2009, 8:18 am

    It doesn’t necessarily sound like my type of book, but I’m intrigued, so I’m putting it down on a long list of “books to maybe think about someday.”

  • Louise August 19, 2009, 9:34 am
  • Jeanne August 19, 2009, 9:30 pm

    I kept wondering if Oskar was autistic. I liked the first one by this author better (and thought the movie was decent).

  • Ali (Worducopia) August 20, 2009, 2:03 am

    I’m curious about a 9 year old who “hides behind this quirky, liberal, vegan, unique persona he’s created for himself.” Is he 9 throughout the story, or is he 9 when his dad dies and more of a preteen when most of the story takes place?

  • Nicole August 20, 2009, 6:07 am

    This sounds like something that I would love to read. I tried reading Everything Is Illuminated and really couldn’t get into it, but I might try one more time with this one.

  • Jenny aka "Sister" August 20, 2009, 3:28 pm

    What other book did you give such high praises??

  • Kim August 20, 2009, 4:06 pm

    The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down was the other book — it was so good it inspired the award 🙂

  • kay August 21, 2009, 2:01 am

    This book sounds like an amazing read! It’s on my TBR list and I’m on the waiting list for it at the library. I read only a few pages at the bookstore and I was hooked! Glad to see that you enjoyed it, too. 🙂

  • Joanna August 21, 2009, 4:47 am

    I love non-traditional styles and loved this book too! I’ll be reading Everything is Illuminated next…

  • Fyrefly August 21, 2009, 9:13 am

    This book made me cry, too, but I think that actually made me like it less… I think I felt like it was drawing its power from people’s own emotional baggage surrounding 9/11, and not from the story itself, so it felt like a little bit of a cheat. That was a few years ago, though; I wonder how I’d feel about it now?

    I loved Everything is Illuminated, though.

  • Memory August 21, 2009, 11:52 am

    That’s a pretty convincing recommendation. I do like postmodernism and fragmented stories, so I’ll definitely keep this in mind.

  • Julia Smith August 21, 2009, 3:13 pm

    I’m currently reading Everything is Illuminated by Foer for the Dewey Reading Challenge, and that one is fabulous so far.

  • Kim L August 22, 2009, 5:41 pm

    Wow. That must have made quite an impression for you to have such a strong reaction to it! I don’t do 9/11 books either, and I don’t do “bad things happening to kids” for the same reason. However, your review has me totally intrigued by this story. Thanks for the recommendation!

  • Krysta November 17, 2009, 11:48 am

    Please, please read this book. It’s fantastic, and the review here on it is great and spot on. it’s the best book i’ve ever read! so full of emotion.

  • Care September 21, 2010, 8:53 am

    Great review. I agree with everything you say. I’m linking to this. I didn’t cry as much as I expected – maybe because I expected to. But it was still emotion for me.