This book is written in a non-traditional style. This does not at all diminish the impact of the the themes and characters - in fact it enhances them. Hang in there, the agony of reading some of the sections (stream of consciousness, absent correct spacing and punctuation) - will create in you a deeper appreciation of the character's feelings.
This book is about a little boy searching for clues about his father who died at the World Trade Center on 9/11/01. The boy is precocious, the story is heart breaking. There is also background information regarding his grandparents that is pertinent. A difficult read (emotionally), but an important one.
A beautiful book, but don't expect a "traditional" narrative. With a young boy as our narrator/hero, we jump from subject to subject and character to character. The death of his father on 9/11 is handled very respectfully (not to mention it made me tear up on a few occasions- and not by being sappy or manipulative) it's a lovely character journey that has an engaging plot wrapped around it. Some of it reminded me of one of my favorite novels, written by Foer's wife funnily enough- The History of Love, which I HIGHLY recommend if you enjoyed this one.
ACK!! Two days I will never get back. This was the most convoluted, poorly written, hard to follow book I have read in years. I was going to see the movie but I fear it will be as badly written as the book. What a waste.
WOW! I cannot tell you how much this book really blew me away. So well-written, and so compelling a story! This is the story of Oskar Schell, a precocious nine year old who finds a key in his father's closet and sets out to find what the key goes to. It is a story of love and loss and family and 09/11, and as previously mentioned, is such a great read that it kept me coming back to it after I put it down. I started off reading this on my color Nook, but I quickly found out that this book has some unusual formatting and pictures which don't carry through very well on the Nook. I ended up going to buy a paper copy and was able to catch up with what I missed, but I don't recommend reading it on the Nook. It is one awesome book, though and not to be missed.
I really hate to discourage readers, but this book really wasn't that good. I've seen the previews for the movie, which is the whole reason I bought the book. I found it to be very confusing. I had to go back and re-read pages because I got lost. Many of the dialogue scenes are especially confusing because it's unclear which character is talking. There are whole paragraphs where each sentence is divided into quotation marks, so you have to go back and re-read to determine who is talking when. I'm so disappointed with it that I won't even see the movie. I hope that someone else is able to better understand this book. If you do, please explain it to me. :-)
Unlike "Everything_Is_Illuminated," which I read about 2 years ago, the tone of this novel was a very consistent balance of extremely funny and incredibly sad.
How can you not love an idiosyncratic nine-year-old narrator who says things like, "Succotash my Balzac, dipshiitake," because he's not supposed to curse? A kid who hands out a business card printed, "OSKAR SCHELL: INVENTOR, JEWELRY DESIGNER, JEWELRY FABRICATOR, AMATEUR ENTOMOLOGIST, FRANCOPHILE, VEGAN, ORIGAMIST, PACIFIST, PERCUSSIONIST, AMATEUR ASTRONOMER, COMPUTER CONSULTANT, AMATEUR ARCHAEOLOGIST, COLLECTOR OF: rare coins, butterflies that died natural deaths, miniature cacti, Beatles memorabilia, semiprecious stones, and other things." Maybe I just have a thing for precocious children, possibly because I was one, but I loved this kid. I cared about his quest to find the lock matching the key he found in his father's closet, after said father died on 9/11. I was amused by his crazy interactions with people throughout New York.
Interwoven into Oskar's quest, is the story of his grandparents, who as teenagers survived the bombing of Dresden. The comparison/contrast of these two tragedies adds a lot of depth to the plot and also causes the reader (at least this reader) to think. I won't burden you with what I thought, so as to not influence what you might think. (Oh, the thinks you can think.)
Overall, a great book. I think this one will become a classic, for both the writing and the historical context.
Oskar Schell is the unforgettable protagonist of Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. What other nine-year-olds send fan mail to Stephen Hawking? Oskar is highly intelligent and quirky, but at heart is simply a young boy grieving the loss of his beloved dad. The reader learns through flashbacks of the very special relationship Oskar and his dad had. Oskar's quest brings him on a journey toward recovery and maybe the realization that the value of his relationship with his dad can be measured in things other than length of time. A parallel story of Oskar's grandparents, who lived through the bombing of Dresden, reminds readers that previous generations have faced cataclysmic events and been broken, but have survived. The author's unorthodox use of photographic and typographic elements, for me, did not distract or necessarily enhance the story, but I can see where others might feeling strongly about their use. Highly recommended, though you will left with "heavy boots."
I was hesitant to read this, as I lost a friend in the WTC on 9/11, but the story's main character -- a wise, clever and funny 9 year old boy who lost his father on 9/11 -- brings empathy and compassion and has renewed my own faith in humanity. All I'm left to say is ... wow. Very highly recommended.
I thought this book was much better than _Everything is Illuminated_. I really enjoyed it, despite some of its oddities (like the photographs, the red circles and improper conversation. Still, it was a moving book that was quite pleasurable to read. I'll definitely keep an eye out for his work from now on. I'm surprised over some of the images that he was able to print in his book. I'm also quite surprised that I enjoyed it as much as I did, but I think that's in large part because of my great love for child narrators.
At times I did not understand this book. HOWEVER I found it very compelling to read. I love Oskar's iniative and quirky personality. It is a book that touches your soul and you won't be sorry to have read it. I feel like a better person because of it, not sure why. It is a very touching heartfelt story.
This was a very moving and complicated book about a boy trying to make sense of the world in his own unique way. I especially liked the alternating storylines between Oskar's search for the lock and his grandparent's experiences in World War II and afterwards. I also liked the use of photographs in the book.
I was really looking forward to this book, but I just didn't enjoy it. I usually don't have a problem with "stories within stories" but I just didn't enjoy the storyline about Oskar's grandfather,. I found those parts of the book to be difficult to slog through, and they left me feeling depressed and sad, which was my overall feeling upon finishing the book. Again, it's usually not a problem for me to read stories about difficult or depressing topics, but this one was too much for me!
While I liked Oskar, the boy who is the central character in this book and I enjoyed the story along the way, it wound up being a let down for me. Oskar finds a key on his father's closet shelf and begins a somewhat futile search for the lock it belongs to because it helps him feel close to his dad. It is entertaining and has some colorful characters along the way, but the story winds up being more about his grandfather, who drowns himself in self pity, and the impact of that on the lives of those who tried to care about him. It wraps up loosely and is somewhat depressing in the end.
Hmm. Typically when I finish reading a book I have a very strong opinion one way or the other, but after finishing "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" I was left feeling lonely and confused. Confused because I wanted to love the book but didn't. Lonely because, well, I was traveling for work and was cooped up in a tiny hotel room overlooking a vacant parking garage on the outskirts of Seattle, Washington. And it was raining. Go figure.
Anyway, this is the first Foer novel that I've read, mainly because a very good friend of mine, who happens to be an author, attempted reading "Everything Is Illuminated" years ago and despised it. He felt that Foer's style was pretentious and gimmicky. This feedback stuck with me over the years, but after enjoying the film version of "Everything is Illuminated" I decided to go against my better judgement and give this one a try. I mean, the story's about a young kid pining away over his father's death which occurred during the 9/11 attacks....How could I not like it??
And that my friends, is what I'm currently struggling with. Have I no soul? How could a story that's so deeply rooted in one of America's greatest tragedies not resonate within me? The only logical answer that I can come up with is Foer's style of writing, specifically his decision to alternate narrators between chapters, each having their very own different style of writing. Now, I completely understand why Foer did this, but damn if it didn't grow tedious after a while.
Another huge issue for me was Oskar Schell's character. Plain and simple, the vast majority of nine year old kids do not talk or act like Oskar does throughout this book. Nine year old kids do not spend months venturing alone or with complete strangers around New York City without something bad eventually happening to them. Nine year old kids pick their noses, play video games, and speak in grammatically incorrect English. Oddly enough, reading this book reminded me of "Dawson's Creek"...you know, that show that we were all hooked on in the late 90's. It wasn't the type of show that I typically watched, but damn I grew fixated on the trials and tribulations of the Dawson/Joey/Pacey love triangle. How could you let her go Dawson? How?
Anyway, my point is, those high school kids from Capeside, Massachusetts did not talk like high schoolers, but rather like pretentious English professors. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that the show's content needed to be dumbed down for its viewers, but with each seventeen syllable word that Dawson blurted out the show began loosing some of it's plausibility...and that's exactly the problem with Foer's portrayal of Oskar. Kids like Oskar are not normal, and thus difficult to relate to.
With all of that said, all is not lost with "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close." I found the excerpts discussing the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks and the profound impacts on Oskar's life incredibly moving. Damn those answering machine messages were haunting weren't they? The world hasn't been the same since that dark day and all of us can relate to the disaster in one way or another. On a personal level, I almost lost my father in a car crash a few years ago and I can completely relate to Oskar's struggle in coping with the loss of his father.
When all was said and done though I was left wanting more. I really wanted to love this book. I wanted to care about Oskar and the outcome of his journey. I wanted to believe that nine year old kids like Oskar really exist...nine year olds that talk like young adults and have the ability to adeptly travel unaided through the most populous city in the United States. Sadly, while I may have been able to suspend my disbelief in order to thoroughly enjoy "Dawson's Creek", I wasn't able to do so for this novel.
One of the best books I've ever read in my life. I was hesitant to read anything about the terrorist attacks in New York on September 11, 2001 as its still very upsetting to me (as a New Yorker). However, the delicate, sensitive way Foer handles this in both the character of Oscar and just the beautiful way he writes, made me very glad I read it. I very much liked the other threads of the story as well which were also of loss or trauma and various journeys toward healing. Highly recommend.
Review first published on my blog: http://memoriesfrombooks.blogspot.com/2012/01/extremely-loud-and-incredibly-close.html
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is the story of nine year old Oskar Schell. His father died in the World Trade Center on September 11. Oskar is in the care of his mother and grandmother. He finds a key that belonged to his father and makes it his mission to find the lock that it fits. I suppose it helps him hold onto his father and brings him some measure of comfort. The book is his search for the lock and the vast array of characters he meets along the way.
I loved the main character. Oskar is a little boy who has suffered a devastating loss that no child should ever have to face. I wanted to make Oskar feel safe again. As such, I really really wanted to like the book. Unfortunately, I did not.
The entire book seem far-fetched. I understand that the adults in the situation were dealing with their own loss in their own way. However, it seemed that Oskar was dealing with his loss all alone. He spends time by himself and wanders the streets of New York searching for this lock.
In addition, throughout the book was also the feeling that I had to read between the lines and see the message within. I loved the story of Oskar and of this grandparents, but it felt too difficult to search for the pieces of the story through the construction and writing style of the book. The book left me unsatisfied and sad.
Listened to this audio today & I wondered why I didn't do this sooner. It is an uplifting myth which was born of the sorrows of 9/11. Parts were hilarious yet very heartbreaking. I found it difficult to once again hear about people jumping from the World Trade Center unable to escape the roaring fire. It was great to hear how many families are moving forward. I found Foer to be wise & compassionate and look forward to reading another book by him.
I have to agree with the other reviews. Found myself so confused and really not all that vested in finding out what happens in the end. It is just weird and not in a good way. Very little about 9/11 except that you know that the dad died that day. I thought the movie looked interesting so I assumed the book would be even better. Sadly, gave up about half way through even though it was for my book club. Since I now know what happens I shall move on.
This story centers on a 9-year-old, Oskar, whose father was killed on 9/11. About a year after the 9/11 tragedy, Oskar finds an envelope with a key in it marked "Black" in his father's closet. Because of Oskar's incredibly active imagination, he goes on a quest to find what the key opens, attempting to interview all the Black's living in NYC. Interspersed between Oskar's quest are letters written by his grandparents concerning their history, which includes the firebombing of Dresden. This book, from hilarious to heartbreaking, was a tough read for me... it rambles some... but it kept my interest piqued and I found it incredibly intelligent. Tough to explain but I can honestly say, I loved it.
Interesting writing style. The book was kind of hard for me to "get into" but I powered through and ended up really enjoying the story. Maybe not a "must-read" but definitely worth reading if you have a PBS credit.
Jonathan Safran Foer's book eloquently tells the story of a little boy's search for a secret lock, after losing his father in the World Trade Center attack. Not at all melodramatic, the story is incredibly touching. Foer captures the voice of the young boy brilliantly.
As with some of the other books I've read recently, I admit, I saw the movie first, which was heartbreaking, and the book is just as much so, but the latter is more complex, as it focuses on the stories of the characters in much greater depth, which to me is an indispensable part of the story, for a number of reasons. The point is the effects of trauma, and how it can cross generations. Both the book and the movie are admirable simply for taking on such a contentious topic, however, specifically the events surrounding 9/11, which will remain raw and evocative for just about everyone who experienced it on that day, probably for the rest of their lives. It deals particularly with the aftermath of the events, over the course of months and years. On a greater scale, it addresses trauma in general, but in a subtle way, through the characters of Oskar's grandparents, both of whom experienced the terrible events surrounding the bombing of Dresden during WWII (an event I've become more familiar with, having read many Kurt Vonnegut novels recently. It's interesting how unrelated things can become intertwined, or perhaps that's why I was attracted to some of them in the first place).
The story illustrates how traumatic events affect people, and how those experiences shape the course of their lives. A survivor (if one wishes to call it that: I recall reading once the words of one 9/11 survivor who stated that "we didn't survive; we just didn't die") of the terrible Dresden bombing, which killed all of his relatives and his pregnant girlfriend, Oskar's grandfather loses the ability to speak, one word at a time, until he has to resort to writing responses in notebooks he carries around and never discards once they're full. The grandmother, who likewise experienced a near-total loss of everything she knew and loved, including her sister, Anna, the grandfather's pregnant girlfriend, develops what is seemingly obsessive-compulsive disorder, micromanaging every inch of the apartment, complete with "Something-" and "Nothing-Spaces," and rules governing every nanosecond of life, in a desperate attempt to exert some control over the uncontrollable, to make the impossible possible.
Oskar likewise has to deal with the trauma of the event he witnessed, which resulted in the death of his father and the guilt of not having the courage to pick up the phone to say goodbye to him; recordings of his desperate and unanswered calls, a few artifacts in the closet and memories are all Oskar has of him, as there's no body to bury. Oskar, too, is deeply affected by the trauma, throughout the book dispaying characteristic behaviors and thoughts associated with PTS(d), and only time will tell how the events will affect him long-term.
The vignettes and flashbacks to the scenes, in the form of letters, greatly help in tying the events in different worlds together, and that's a weakness of the movie, in particular: it doesn't delve into the complex relationship between Oskar and his grandparents, making the story instead a "feel-go0d" story of discovery between a grandson and a grandfather, albeit with some intricacies, but the characters are nowhere near as developed as they are in the book, which is disappointing. The grandmother in the movie is just kind of "there," but there was very little about her story that was included, making her rather superficial. Lost opportunity.
I agree that it is at times "hyper-real," but there is beauty and poignancy in the descriptions. It's also probably the way a child experiences the world, if memory serves, especially one who may be on the autism spectrum, which Oskar may well be. His great intelligence and sensitivity, as well his anxiety and many fears, which result in the proclivity to micromanage, also speak to this possibility. He sees things in pictures (i.e., his description of "wearing heavy boots" rather than articulating the word "depression"), which the author alludes to in the inclusion of many of the photographs throughout of the seemingly mundane, such as the doorknobs, the burst of pigeons outside a window, and the series of The Falling Man at the end, which speaks more loudly and powerfully than any written description. Overall, this is a beautiful book, creatively and powerfully expressed, that will leave you contemplative, even if that involves wearing "heavy boots" for a while.
I have been trying to get through this strange book for weeks now.
It's very confusing, jumps from story to story & when you figure out what "part" of the story you are currently in most of it just doesn't make any sense.
Don't think I'm going to finish it & I never do that.
Nine year-old Oskar Schell has embarked on an urgent, secret mission that will take him through the five boroughs of New York. His goal is to find the lock that matches a mysterious key that belonged to his father, who died in the World Trade Center on the morning of September 11. This seemingly impossible task will bring Oskar into contact with survivors of all sorts on an exhilirating, affecting, often hilarious and ultimately healing journey.