Earlier this week I blitzed through the book Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. This book is fantastic! It tells the story of 9-year-old Oskar Schell whose father died in the World Trade Center on September 11th. Oskar finds a key in his father’s closet, and, believing that it is a message or has some kind of meaning, he sets out to find what it unlocks and hopefully feel closer to his father along the way.
Foer did an excellent job of creating the character of Oskar. Oskar considers himself to be an inventor, jewelry designer, astrophysics, tambourine player, vegan, and pacifist. He has interesting quirks like saying “Jose!” when he means “no way!” Although some people might find Oskar to be unrealistic, I don’t think that’s the case. He is simultaneously very knowledgeable and immature. He is curious, and he is a know it all. He is a lot like some of my students!
The plot held my attention for the entire book. The main storyline follows Oskar on his quest to find the meaning behind the key. He ends up going all over New York City and meets quite a cast of characters. Chapters about Oskar alternate with letters written by his grandparents. We slowly discover the history of their relationship and their past in Dresden. These letters aren’t in chronological order. We get hints and glimpses, but we can’t see the whole picture until the end of the book.
I didn’t love the grandparents’ letters. Some of them were not so interesting, some of them were frustrating, and some of them made me uncomfortable. (I don’t want to read about Grandma describing her first time with Grandpa!) That said, the things that happened in Dresden provide an interesting parallel to what happened to Oskar’s father.
Some aspects of this book made me very sad. The descriptions of people dying on 9/11 don’t really made for good bedtime reading. Not to mention, Oskar (understandably) struggles to accept what has happened to his dad. It’s painful to read about, but I think that’s because it’s so well written.
I don’t have high expectations for the movie (although the trailer looks really good). The magic of the book is in the way that it’s written. I don’t think a movie can convey that. Besides, after I got burned by HP7 part 2, I set the bar low when it comes to movies based of books.
Next up: Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall.