Sunday, November 27, 2011
by Jonathan Safran Foer
completed June 2011
I'm finally getting around to writing my review on Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. This one is for Trish, of Love Laughter and a Touch of Insanity. I read it on her recommendation and she requested that I review it soon, so here goes. Her review is much better than mine, so make sure to check it out.
As most know, this book centers around Oskar Schell, a nine year-old who lost his father on 9/11. It also winds an additional narrative of a married couple with a strangely dysfunctional relationship. As the story unfolds, the reader discovers how these stories intersect.
Let me start by saying that I adored Oskar, despite him being extremely precocious. I rarely laugh out loud when reading, and the first few pages had me roaring (which garnered me a few strange looks from my husband). I found Oskar's method of pseudo-swearing hilarious. Jonathan Safran Foer created an incredibly believable voice for Oskar. He walked the line often between funny and heartbreaking. Every time Oskar had heavy boots, my heart ached.
The second narrative is where I started to have reservations. Oskar and his story felt real to me, but it was a stretch for me to believe many of the occurrences in the couple's narrative. For those who have read it, I particularly had difficulty with the "nothing" and "something" spaces, and the tattooed hands. I understand what they represent, and I respect what he was trying to evoke, but for me, the story would have rang more true if their situations hadn't seemed as contrived.
Foer's writing is impressive when he's describing the emotional impact of real-life situations. This is where he shines. Ultimately, this is a story about grief, and his choice to juxtapose Oskar's grief with the grief surrounding the aftermath of the Dresden bombings was brilliant. Sometimes I focus on the lives lost in these devastating wars or acts of violence, but those left behind are central to the story. It's heartbreaking to reflect on how the lives of the survivors are destroyed, and they have to find a way to rebuild themselves around their grief and loss.
The bottom line is that I didn't love this book, but I unequivocally do not regret reading it. Foer is a brilliant writer. The gimmicks and experimental nature of the book were a slight distraction to me from what could have been a book that I loved. Do not let my thoughts detract you from reading it. Many people love Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, for the very reasons that were drawbacks for me. I would highly recommend it, despite the fact that it didn't 100% work for me.
Have you read Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close? If so, what you think about Foer's unconventional approach?
Posted by Kristi at 11:06 PM