Early this winter I started to see film trailers, ads, and interviews with the stars of a new movie called "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close". This movie looked like a sure Oscar contender with a big name cast and a beautiful story line. Tissues would be mandatory. That's my kind of movie! Of course I am impatient, and when I found out that the script was taken from a novel written by Jonathan Safran Foer, I was in the stacks and grabbing my copy!
Foer's book is a read that will have you thinking. He writes in a way that you may not be used to, but reading something different and unusual is what I love. The plot is centered around young Oskar Schell. He is a nine-year-old boy on the way to his father's funeral when we meet him in the first chapter. His father, Thomas Schell, has been killed in the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11th. In a way that only a child would cope, Oskar spends the ride running ideas for new inventions through his head and tormenting the limo driver. From the very start of the book, you get a sense of Oskar and you will know immediately that he is not just an ordinary child.
But don't think that Oskar is not grieving. He is grieving much deeper than his mother first knows. He carries a secret about the day his father died. He has also found a clue, in the form of a key, that he thinks his father left behind for him. And so, Oskar begins a journey through New York City to find the meaning that will be revealed, if he can only find out what the key was made for!
As he travels each day, he meets a vast cast of characters--but sadly, none of them can help unravel the mystery of the key. However, a beautiful thing happens. For some, Oskar's eternal belief that he will find answers, his honesty, his very presence, breaks down walls and helps them reconnect with the world. Some he visits suffered the loss of a loved one in the very same tragedy or were so shaken by the event that they aren't sure how to cope anymore. Meeting the young boy who is so brave and so determined to find a last bond to his father helps them find new hope.
There is also a back story interwoven in pages. The story of Oskar's grandmother and grandfather who came to America from Dresden, Germany. They have also suffered great tragedy and heartbreak most of their lives. From surviving the bombing of Dresden as young adults, to trying to find love together after living through such horror, to then enduring the loss of their son in the terrorist attacks in New York. Both plots scream at us, "How do we go on?"
"Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" is a novel that will have your emotions running all over the place. You will feel joy in one passage and then feel like you have been punched in the gut in the next. As only a book narrated by a nine-year-old boy can do, it is written exactly as a child would think from moment to moment and is very different from an adult's point of view where they never stop dwelling. Oskar never forgets his loss and the love of his father is entwined through every part of the story, but still, he is a child and in that alone we sometimes find happiness.
I have still not been able get out to see the movie, but after reading this lovely, richly written, (can I say masterpiece?), I feel totally satisfied. Tissues are mandatory as you read the book as well! There aren't many authors who can write with this sense of beauty and style and I loved every bit of it. Jonathan Safran Foer also wrote an earlier gem called Everything is Illuminated," which also won high acclaim.. I will be picking that title up next!
Recommended by Donna Nichols