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
Pages: 326 (paperback)
Rating: 9 out of 10
Source: Purchased from Borders in Silver Spring, MD as they were going out of business.
During the National Book Festival in September, I got to hear Jonathan Safran Foer speak. It was really warm and the tent was crowded, so I took a seat on the grass. After a few minutes, I did not notice the heat and was transfixed by him. He was promoting his latest book called Eating Animals which sounds good, but he quote about Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close stuck with me. Unfortunately, I cannot remember the exact quote (thanks a lot--pregnancy brain), but the essence of it was that through Oskar we break down grief that seems so large into a small task.
In March, I was with Beth at the Borders book store in Silver Spring and I was trying to decide which book to purchase. I picked up Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and Beth convinced me that it was the best option of all the ones I was considering. I am glad I listened to her.
Based on the premise of the book, I knew that I was going to be really sad. Reading about a child grieving the loss of a parent is probably not the most appropriate subject matter for a 5 month pregnant woman. However, I was immediately drawn in and loved Oskar. The questions he was asking and the ways in which he was trying to find out what an object meant to his dad were heart warming and also heart wrenching. He was not only processing grief, but also figuring out how things were connected and unfolding the complex relationship with his mom and grandmother. One of my favorite things about Oskar was his imagination and how at several points in the book he described what he wanted to do which was an expression of his frustration or hurt. However, what he ended up doing was something much more subtle and socially acceptable. Even though I am much older than him, I can certainly relate to that. I enjoyed meeting and learning about the history of his grandparents, but their story was not an intriguing to me as Oskar's. Also, I found that I was impatient with those passages because I wanted to hear more about Oskar.
An unexpected gift of reading the book was how it made me think of what I would wish for Partner and my child if I were to die when the kid was young. Partner and I had some good conversations about this which I think will help us parent mindfully.
I am counting the book for the Global Reading Challenge 2011. The book took place in New York. I am counting it as a bonus for North America.