Kim's Reviews > Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
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's review
Feb 20, 2008

it was amazing
bookshelves: the-kids-are-all-right, gmba, cultured, need-to-revisit, holy-shit, favorite-authors, mmviii
Recommended to Kim by: Montambo
Recommended for: everyone

There are books that affect me and then there are books that kill me. This falls in the latter. I cried on the couch, I cried on the bus, I cried at stoplights, I cried at work.. I cried more over this book than I did on the actual September 11th. Then I became upset that this piece of fiction could invoke such melancholia. Can I use the excuse of being in shock during the actual event? That it seemed like a movie?

I have no excuse.

Flash back: The second half of 1994, my then boyfriend and I living in the East Village, 23 years old and clueless. We were broke most of the time, not much into clubbing, so about 4 out of 7 nights we would walk. Never north.. only through the Village or SoHo and eventually our meandering would lead us to the Towers. No matter what path we’d take, it was our destination. I remember many nights sitting on this ratty red paint peeled bench staring across the river at Jersey, specifically the Colgate sign, and just talking about everything. Hours sped by and we’d drag our sorry asses back to the train and to our tiny apartment. I remember nights where I’d hug the side of Tower One, pressing against it and lift my head as far back as I could and stare up until the glass met the sky and I’d get so dizzy I’d stumble back. I remember the night that we decided to marry, I remember exchanging our vows leaning against the railing staring up, always up.

I haven’t been to New York in 13 years, I can’t even imagine a New York without those buildings.


There are 43 ‘Incrediblys’ and 63 ‘Extremelys’ within this book. Does anyone really ever use those adverbs anymore? Is anything ever extreme or incredible enough for us? My daughter has taken to using ‘perfectly’ in almost every sentence and it brings a smile to my face each time.

The journey that the boy, Oskar, takes in this book is beautiful. The need to feel close to his father who died in the attacks, to spend just a bit more time with him. While Oskar is a bit unbelievable as a character, I felt that that was soon overshadowed by the images presented. I know I do this a lot in reviews, but I can’t help it: Lines like “Being with him made my brain quiet. I didn’t have to invent a thing.” or “ My insides don’t match up with my outsides.” and “It takes a life to learn how to live.”

I’m a sucker for a good line.

When Oskar is anxious he describes it as ‘wearing heavy boots’ and when his Grandmother likes something or in a good mood she uses the term ‘that was One Hundred Dollars’ and then there’s a whole mention of a ‘Birdseed shirt’ that I’m still unclear about but enjoy the imagery of.

But, this isn’t just Oskar’s journey.. this is also about Oskar’s grandparents and that piece is as strong as his story, sometimes stronger. I won’t go into that anymore, I’ll let you read about it.

Some have called this ‘gimmicky’ or ‘precious’ but I was truly moved by this story and combined with the images presented, it will stay with me for a very long time to come. As will 1994.
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Quotes Kim Liked

Jonathan Safran Foer
“She wants to know if I love her, that's all anyone wants from anyone else, not love itself but the knowledge that love is there, like new batteries in the flashlight in the emergency kit in the hall closet.”
Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Jonathan Safran Foer
“We need enormous pockets, pockets big enough for our families and our friends, and even the people who aren't on our lists, people we've never met but still want to protect. We need pockets for boroughs and for cities, a pocket that could hold the universe.”
Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Jonathan Safran Foer
“We stopped laughing, I took the world into me, rearranged it, and sent it back out as a question: "Do you like me?”
Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Reading Progress

February 20, 2008 – Shelved
February 20, 2008 – Shelved as: the-kids-are-all-right
February 20, 2008 – Shelved as: gmba
Started Reading
November 12, 2008 – Shelved as: cultured
November 12, 2008 – Finished Reading
September 21, 2009 – Shelved as: favorite-authors
September 21, 2009 – Shelved as: need-to-revisit
September 21, 2009 – Shelved as: holy-shit
December 13, 2009 – Shelved as: mmviii

Comments (showing 1-46 of 46) (46 new)

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RandomAnthony I liked this, Kim...I'm curious as to what you'll think...

message 2: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim Me too...

When I have more than an hour of sleep in me, i plan on finding out. :)

Staci I found that this book affected me this way also. The part that really stuck to me is where the kid is thinking that all those people that lived breathed in pieces of his dad. Haunted my dreams and really made me look at 9/11 in a different light.

message 4: by Amanda (new)

Amanda “It takes a life to learn how to live.”
Heart-wrenchingly true. :(

Fantastic review, Kimtastic.

message 5: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim There are so many parts of this book that haunt me. So. Many.

message 6: by Michelle (new)

Michelle I'm not strong enough to read this book.

Just reading your review brought tears to my eyes.

message 7: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim I'm sorry, Shel. I tend to make you read books like this. And you get me to read.... Ahh.. never mind. :) When you're ready, but don't pass it up, kay?

Lori Kim, I just finished it. I'm wandering around the house, at a loss, everything feels so mundane.

Kim I lived in Soho from 80 to 91, and never would I walk to the Towers, I tried to steer clear away even if I biked to Battery Park, I always got a very creepy feeling from them.

The ending was a bit of a letdown, I flicked thru the pics and when there were no more words, I cried out, It's over? I supposed it's silly, but I wanted a tidy ending after all the pain and murky beauty of life.

So, what do you think happens?


What do you think happens to Grandma and Grandpa, do they both go home again? We know that Oscar knows the renter is in fact Grandpa. But that could be from the letter Grandma (we never do find out her name, do we) is typing at the airport.

message 9: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim Oh, Lori... I don't know... I just thought that the whole picture book ending was wonderful.. the taking things back aspect.

I don't know if I liked the Grandma/Grandpa ending... but, I don't think I liked their life together either.

Sally Did this just pop up on my update feed because I recently finished it? GR is so mysterious sometimes.

But I too wandered around the house, feeling helpless, after finishing this Lori.

message 11: by Amanda (new)

Amanda Nope. It's on my update feed, too. Weird as hell, right?!?!?

message 12: by [deleted user] (new)

I really enjoyed this review, Kim.

message 13: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim Awww...shucks, thanks, guys!

Matthieu I will refrain from saying something truly vicious about this book.

message 15: by [deleted user] (new)

really matthew? oh, go on... say it! we'll still love it anyway :P

Chris I concur with the rest. Great review, Kim!

Kevin L. Thanks Kim for sharing your sentiments.

I've had this book for a while, now I may have to move it up the list!


message 18: by Josh (new) - rated it 5 stars

Josh You have nothing to apologize for. I cried over this one multiple times as well. This book was powerful beyond belief.

message 19: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim It's a love/hate kinda thing with this book, Evelyn. A lot of people found it 'gimmicky' but I say, Bring it On.

I haven't been back to NYC in quite awhile. I hear that people are nice now. Whoa.

Keisha This book made me sad in parts, but it didn't move me to tears like it seems to have for other people. However, your review is fantastic and helps me to see how impactful this book is to many people.

Sandra Grauschopf I think the idea with the birdseed shirt was that it would attract so many birds, the wearer would be lifted away and fly with them. So if you were, say, stuck on the roof of the Twin Towers before they collapsed, you could put on your birdseed shirt and be carried away to safety.

message 22: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim That's a beautiful idea, Sandra!

message 23: by Marcus (new) - added it

Marcus I haven't read this yet but just from your review alone it makes me want to go out and buy it this minute. Thank you for writing such a 'Incredibly' moving review. :D

message 24: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim Thank you Marcus! I see that they are releasing a film version this winter... I am not yet sure how I feel about this. :/

message 25: by Marcus (new) - added it

Marcus yeah i know what you mean. as a teen, i read the perks of being a wallflower almost religiously. and now they're releasing a movie of the book, so i have mix feelings. but hopefully they stay true to the book. and no problem!

message 26: by Amy (new)

Amy Your review was exquisite and totally made me want to read this book! Thank you so very very much!!

message 27: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim Thank you, Amy! I hope you enjoy it!

Sandy about the birdseed shirt. Just my thoughts, but I think Oskar invented the birdseed shirt in hopes that a flock of birds would come by and be enticed. Thereby carrying away the leapers to safety while feeding on the shirts. IMO

message 29: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim Thanks, Sandy... that's a great observation!

Keegan I loved the movie, and that's what introduced me to the book. Despite a key character switch I'd say the movie and book are equally amazing and well done. I'm only halfway through the book though. Did you enjoy the movie?

message 31: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim I have to say... I'm afraid to see the movie... I'm having trouble seeing how the book could translate. Although, I do love Max von Sydow and Jeffrey Wright.

Buggy Thanks Kim, I'd like to leave this as "great review" and move on but I can't because your review made me cry.

I loved how you loved the twin towers, how you had actual life changing memories there. I've never heard anyone mention anything even close to that imagery before -moving. But you killed me with the quotes "Being with him made my brain quiet" My dad died when I was 6, I'm now 42, nothing I've ever heard or read has ever come close to decribing how I feel. I know what its like to be be willing to do anything just to feel close to a ghost, to a memory.


message 33: by Holly (new)

Holly Bush I haven't been able to see the movie. The date's not historical enough for me. Still too personal.

And after reading your review it sounds as though the book evoked exactly the right tone. It had to be contemplative. Nothing else would do for the subject matter and it sounds like the author hit his marks. Not quite ready to read it though.

Kelly Mackenzie When I finished this book in late 2008 at the age of sixteen, I found myself in an intense emotional state for days on end. I felt as if I would never stop crying and honestly when I get deep in thought about the events that take place, I find it happening all over again. Those were tears of closure; of a satisfying conclusion to something wonderful. To know of other people who have had a similar reaction warms my heart. I cannot expect any book I read in the future to do the same but I'd be so grateful if one could.

message 35: by Amy (new)

Amy it sounds like this book is good. I want to read it, but seeing that most of the people who read it say that they bawled their eyes out... Not so sure anymore. I tried watching the movie but fell asleep and ended up playing minecraft... Is the book going to be more interesting than the movie?

message 36: by Hannah (new) - added it

Hannah Bradley Did you end up watching the movie?

message 37: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim I did.. I liked it, for its own body of work. I really didn't connect it with the book because I would have been disappointed. The boy who played Oskar was incredible. (IMHO)

message 38: by Mehr (new)

Mehr I haven't read this book, but saw the movie by chance as I was flicking through channels. The boy's acting was superb, and the movie was good. With such a great review, I'll definitely read it too.

message 39: by Robin (new) - rated it 1 star

Robin Kim, I enjoyed reading your review; so well written and heartfelt. I'm reading the book now and find it difficult to put down. I love Foer's writing style.

message 40: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim Loved your review. ..& this book!

Nadine Beautiful review!

message 42: by David (new) - rated it 1 star

David Hated this book, but I liked your review. Your story of the Towers accomplished more in a couple paragraphs than this guy accomplished in 330 pages.

Hollis Loved your review. I too cried the entire time I read this book. I was living in the East Village during 9/11 and so stunned when it happened, I didn't cry that much at the time. My daughter was only one when I read this book in 2006 & now she is 12 and I was reading reviews to see if too old for her.

Elizabeth Roberts-Zibbel Hi Kim... I just started reading this for the first time and also love your review and your Twin Towers experience. For people who live(d) in New York, even if no one you knew died, the TOWERS died, leaving a hole in the sky and the whole city forever, and you, if you loved New York the way everyone connected to it seems to love it.

I would like to give you my interpretation of the birdseed shirt. Oskar mentioned people can’t fly yet; we don’t have wings. A birdseed shirt would attract birds to you, and from the rest of Oskar’s thoughts and inventions so far, I believe he imagined birds flying away with the wearer of the shirt. Oskar’s dad was above the plane impact. He said a building that moved instead of an elevator would keep you safe “even if a plane strikes below you...” even if you aren’t wearing a birdseed shirt.

Brooke Palmer I found Oskar to be a believable character because he displays nontypical thought patterns like that of a child with autism. People with autism are capable of what I think of as incredibly upward spiraling and highly insightful ways of thinking that they can arrive at quickly where as someone neurotypical might take a life time to come to. I know this well as my son, who is almost 5, has autism and he blows my kid off so often with the way he perceives and feels things. So much so that he has changed my world and the way I see things drastically and continues to do so. The way he sees things are so simple and full of clarity yet so complex and beautiful and he is only a child. Sometimes it feels like I’m looking into the eyes of a wise old man when I hold him and he meets my eyes. He makes me a wiser person for helping me see things through his eyes and he stills and calms me faster than most things can when I am over thinking things in my life just by touching my face and looking into my eyes because it humbles me to see such immense understanding and closeness in the eyes of someone so little. The things he understands never cease to amaze and delight me. For this personal reason I found Oskar more than believable, I found him vibrant and vital to the point of leaping off the page and it made his story even more crushing at times because I could see it so realistically. I was able to read a lot more into Oskar’s character from recognizing unspoken traits in him that stuck out like a sore thumb to me. I hope this helps you see Oskar in a more believable way because he was a truly shining and fleshed out character for me.

Brooke Palmer *lid off not kid off

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