Title: Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
Author: Jonathan Safran Foer
Release Date: March 7, 2005
Format/Page Count: Paperback, 368 pages
Purchased: Christmas present (-:
Synopsis: 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 exhilarating, affecting, often hilarious, and ultimately healing journey. (FROM GOODREADS)
Expectation: Finally getting to this book was a long journey. And somewhat confusing. I picked it up about 10-20 times over the years. I read the synopsis. I thought I would enjoy the story. I put it down. Just before Christmas, I actually picked it up and read the first paragraph. I don't know why I didn't do that earlier. It was like I was fighting against reading this book. After reading the first paragraph, though...I knew I was destined to read it and love it. Expectation was low for years and years...and rose to a crescendo about a month ago.
'What about a teakettle? What if the spout opened and closed when the steam came out, so it would become a mouth, and it could whistle pretty melodies, or do Shakespeare, or just crack up with me? I could invent a teakettle that reads in Dad's voice, so I could fall asleep, or maybe a set of kettles that sings the chorus of "Yellow Submarine", which is a song by the Beatles, who I love, because entomology is one of my raisons d'etre, which is a French expression that I know. Another good thing is that I could train my anus to talk when I farted. If I wanted to be extremely hilarious, I'd train it to say, "Wasn't me!" every time I made an incredibly bad fart. And if I ever made an incredibly bad fart in the Hall of Mirrors, which is in Versailles, which is outside of Paris, obviously, my anus would say, "Ce n'etais pas moi!"
So begins this glorious tale that should be incredibly sad but somehow lifts you up like a balloon and takes you, smiling, into the wonderful world of Oskar Schell!
As I said, I really fell in love with this book somewhere within the first paragraph. It makes you catch your breath...forces you to keep reminding yourself to breathe.
This is a post-911 tale. The precocious 'main' narrator, Oskar Schell, is a wonder. I found him so whimsical and honest that I made the statement, "This is my new favourite book" the second I finished reading it. Oskar thinks outside the box. He sees the world in a unique way, but he doesn't leave the reader in the dust. He takes you with him.
I don't want to say much about the story-line of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close...as the movie will be released this month. Some may be reading it soon or watching it soon. I'll just say that it was pure delight, through and through. It was heart-wrenching and joyous. You will laugh and you will cry.
Oskar is on a mission...to be closer to his father, who passed away when one of the towers collapsed on 9/11. He wants his words, his spirit, his touch...anything. Listening to his father's last recordings on the home phone is not enough. He wants one last adventure with his father. One last scavenger hunt, like the ones his father used to send him on.
When Oskar finds a key in a vase in his father's closet, while looking for things to touch and smell to get closer to the man he misses, he decides it is part of a scavenger hunt his father planned out before he died. Following the clues he assumes to be there, he ends up digging for treasure in Central Park, searching for all the people in New York City with the surname BLACK and searching for the one lock in all of New York that his key will open...the one lock out of the hundreds and thousands of locks that are waiting to be opened.
Along with Oskar's journey, the reader is also shown the complicated and intriguing story of his grandparents. There are several threads trailing out from the onset of the book...and one is never quite sure how they will be woven together. But Safran Foer does an incredible job bringing the reader there...to that magical place where all is intricately woven together in a lovely mosaic that will leave the reader sighing with contentment at the end.
I love quirky and I love emotional and I love a narrative that takes me so deep that the line between narrator and reader gets all squiggly and blurred. Safran Foer does this with EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE. This is a book I will revisit time and again. It's simply beautiful. It's a heart-song born from a tragedy. And to think this is just one imaginary boy's post-911 experience. There are so many stories out there surrounding this tragedy. This fictional account will leave you breathless and wondering...
Expectation was exceeded in the first few pages.