January 3, 2012

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, by Jonathan Safran Foer

How have we not reviewed Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close yet?! Wasn't it THE book a couple years ago? Regardless, the movie is coming out soon, so it's a perfect time to take another look.

Plot: Oskar's father died in 9-11. While trying to come to terms with his death, Oskar uncovers a key in his dad's closet. With only the word "Black" on an envelope containing the key, Oskar follows the mysterious owner on a great hunt across Manhattan and its boroughs, meeting people with interesting stories along the way. Simultaneously, the reader is learning about Oskar's grandparents through letters they wrote to him and his father.

The plot really intrigued me, but I have to say that it was difficult to follow with the change between Oskar's story and the story of his grandparents. Oskar's story is complex enough with the multitude of characters and sub-stories that are told, and while in the end the grandparents' story is interesting, it felt tedious and unnecessary for much of the book.

Characters: Oskar is supposed to be endearing. After all, whose heart wouldn't melt upon reading about a 9-year-old grieving after 9-11. I feel a little bad saying this because he is supposed to be so lovable, but his quirks became a bit frenetic at times. I also think the back and forth with his grandmother prevented me from really sinking into Oskar's character.

Structure: As I've said, the alternating story lines threw me off. The parts told from Oskar's point of view were easy to read because he's a young narrator, but I also think that gave me confidence to skim them when I probably should have taken more care. In skimming, it's possible I missed some deeper meanings.

I finally picked this book up since the movie is coming out. And I think I'll still see the movie. I think (I hope!) Hollywood will do a good job of bringing this story to life in a way that's slightly more cohesive.

3 stars.
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  1. This has been on my "to-read" list along with Everything Is Illuminated. Thanks for the review!

  2. I very much appreciated this review for giving me more details about this book I have seen mentioned in several tweets, etc. However, I feel this reviewer is somewhat impatient with the segues to converstaions/memories of the lead character with his grandmother, etc. Possibly this reviewer feels that same way when reading Faulkner. Maybe I am just being too Southern in my comfort level with multi-layered story telling and its ability to fill out the lead character rather than distract away from him.


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