Lucy's Reviews > Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
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Sep 01, 07

bookshelves: favorites
Recommended for: open-minded readers who don't mind the unconventional
Read in August, 2007

I picked this book up two days ago to read the first page (I personally think you can tell a lot about a book from the first page) and was hooked. I'm in the middle of another book, which is a good book, but the jarring nature of the prose reeled me in. The first chapter is called, "What the?" which is exactly what I was thinking. I was instantly reminded of another great book, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, where you actually experience the book as well as read it. While I wouldn't want every book to be written like that, because it's a bit like riding a roller coaster in the dark with strobe lights, it sure is fun every once in a while.

Jonathan Safran Foer, the author, writes the tale of a nine year old boy named Oskar Schell, whose father was in the World Trade Center when the planes flew into them on September 11th. I think its fair to say that the boy becomes extremely troubled after his father's death, but with the unconventional childhood he had, it didn't take much to push him over the edge. His father was an atheist and Oskar wasn't raised to believe in an afterlife or heaven or that people have spirits.

When no body is recovered, his mother buries an empty coffin and she and Oskar have this conversation: "It's just an empty box." "It's more than an empty box." "Why would I want to spend eternity next to an empty box?" Mom said, "His spirit is there," and that made me really angry. I told her, "Dad didn't have a spirit! He had cells!" "His memory is there." "His memory is there," I said, pointing at my head. "Dad had a spirit," she said, like she was rewinding a bit in our conversation. I told her, "He had cells, and now they're on rooftops, and in the river, and in the lungs of millions of people around New York, who breathe him every time they speak!"

The book also tells the story of Oskar's paternal grandparents. The narration changes when both tell their own story. When his grandmother writes, there are no paragraphs and no quotations marks. Lots of odd spacing and most sentences get their own line. She's kind of crazy herself which you know by how she reacts when watching Oskar in his school's play of Hamlet and her conversations with Oskar. Oskar's grandfather...well...that's when you really see crazy. The author uses the most license with him and parts of the book are downright bizarre. Like the eight pages with nothing on them. Or when he starts to write smaller and smaller so that two entire pages are just dark black scribbles because some many words are on top of themselves.

It's more than just tricks on the page, however. The story is really about grief and how Oskar chooses to grieve for his father and how Oskar's grandparents grieved after losing much of what they loved when their city of Dresden was bombed in World War II.

When Oskar finds a key in an envelope with the word "Black" written on it inside a vase in his parent's bedroom, he sets out to discover what it unlocks. He goes about this by finding every person with the last name of "Black" in the five boroughs of New York City and spends almost a year going out on the weekends to ask Aaron, Abel, Amber etc. if they know anything about the key. A few interesting characters and stories get told through this storyline, but the real beauty of this book is how it made me remember and react to the horror of 9/11 again. You kind of forget....with the War on Terror, and the Iraq War and all of the stories that have happened during the last six years how horrible it was to watch those burning buildings go down on live TV. The last 14 pages of the book are pictures Oskar got off of a Portuguese web site that had a picture of a man who had jumped from the building. He put them in reverse order and you see this body in the air going up. The wish of a nine year old boy.

This book is exactly what its title says it is. Extremely and incredibly written. It's different, but I sure liked it.
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Quotes Lucy Liked

Jonathan Safran Foer
“Sometimes I can hear my bones straining under the weight of all the lives I'm not living.”
Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close


Comments (showing 1-9 of 9) (9 new)

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message 1: by Stacey (new)

Stacey Sykes We read this book two months ago for my book club and it was ok. I am not crazy about his style of writing, but thought the content was interesting. It took awhile for me to get into it...what a precocious kid...but I ended up actually liking it. Have you read his first novel 'Everything is Illuminated'? The movie is out on DVD also.


Lucy I haven't read Everything is Illuminated even though he must be proud of it to put it on the cover of this book (look at the knuckles...). I'm liking it so far. I should finish it today or tomorrow.


message 3: by Marie (new)

Marie I listened to this on CD, and I have to tell you that your description of riding a roller coaster was very appropriate while listening to this. I had to pull over several times to listen carefully. I think the author's style of writing is somewhat difficult (because it's so different??) but it lends itself to the nature of the story itself. Everything is Illuminated was also incredible, but difficult for me to follow at times because of his unusual way of writing his stories.


Nurpatria Kusworini This book and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. They somehow share the same atmosphere. And both have hooked me from the very first page.


Miichelle i just teared up after reading this and remembering the book. loved it.


Serafina So I'm not the only person comparing this and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time!

Last year, I had a strong fight about this with my english teacher because I told her that I found the atmosphere similar. (Then again, she was not known for tolerating student opinions...)

I loved both books because you don't just read them, you really experience them and thus are never able to forget it.


Jenna I completely agree that this book reminds me of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nightime. I thought that as soon as I picked up this book. I'm only about 150 pages into it and it's already one of my favorites!


Julie This is so funny. I got Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close from my mum together with The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nightime, and now I see all these people comparing them, saying that they have the same feel. I must start the Curious Incident soon, to see if it's true!


Dawn Yes! Totally reminded me of Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime although I couldn't remember the name of that book at the time. Thanks for the reminder!


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