Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer is a historical fiction novel set after September 11th, 2001 in New York City. It is approximately 368 pages. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close became a major motion picture in 2011. Foer is also the author of Everything Is Illuminated.
Most of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is narrated by nine year old Oskar, who is socially awkward and we can assume may have some developmental issues as well. The book leads you through his grieving process as he comes to term with the fact that his father was one of the victims of the 9/11 attacks.
The only thing that Oskar has left of his father are several voice messages that he left the morning of the attack, and a key that he found in the closet in his parents room. Oskar is convinced that this key was meant for him to find, and that if he can search for the lock it belongs to he will have uncovered a secret message from his father.
Foer takes the reader on a journey with Oskar as he travels throughout New York City, overcoming his fear of talking to people, public transportation, and heights, in order to find the truth. He meets many characters that truly show the beauty of the culture of New York City, and I believe helps Oskar to find a bit of himself as well.
The aspect of Foer’s writing in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close that is so terrific is the style. The book is not straight prose. There are pages that are blank. There are pages with a single word. There are pages of pictures. There are many parts of the books where the pages themselves and the way they are engineered speaks more than the words on them.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close takes a tragedy like 9/11 and puts it into a writing style and perspective that I believe has not been done before. We experience the quirks of Oskar, we learn about his family’s past, and we get a glimpse into how they are all attempting to cope with this sudden tragedy. You find the fear of the unknown and the trauma that comes with a devastating event like 9/11, and the silent strength of a family coming together and weeping and fighting through some of the deepest grief of their lives.
This book is one of my favorites, and I have enjoyed stepping into Oskar’s world several times. We hear about 9/11 so often sometimes it is easy for it to lose impact (a sad but true fact of almost all tragedies), and especially as time goes by it is easier to forget. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close shocks you by placing you in the mind of a child at the time, and reminding you just what was lost on that fateful day.
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