BOOK REVIEW: Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close – by Jonathan Safran Foer

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Title: Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
Author: Jonathan Safran Foer
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction
First published: April 4th 2005
Finished reading: June 16th 2014
Pages: 326

Rating 4

“I felt, that night, on that stage, under that skull, incredibly close to everything in the universe, but also extremely alone. I wondered, for the first time in my life, if life was worth all the work it took to live. What exactly made it worth it? What’s so horrible about being dead forever, and not feeling anything, and not even dreaming? What’s so great about feeling and dreaming?”

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Various people have recommended Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close to me over the past few months, and I’m glad I finally decided to give it a go. Some may not appreciate the way Jonathan Safran Foer told this story of a young boy and a grandfather both trying to coope with a traumatic event and a terrible loss. But for me the way we see the world through the eyes of the curious boy slash inventor slash detective is endearing. And although you might think it’s hard to feel symphathy for the ‘speechless’ grandfather, I couldn’t help feeling sorry for him. A great read and definitely recommended if you don’t mind entering the mind of a confused but brilliant and curious kid. I’ll be reading more from Jonathan Safran Foer in the future for sure!

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I’ll make the summary short since it’s hard to explain the book without revealing too much… The main character Oskar is a young boy trying to grow up, confused about a lot of things in life and wanting to understand everything. He asks a million questions per day and is always inventing things in his mind just to try and make the world a better place. But one day his world collapses as his father dies during the 9/11 attack… Oskar seems unable to coope with his feelings, or what he calls heavy boots, and both his mother and grandmother fail in consoling him the way he needs. One day his eyes fix on a blue vase and when he breaks by accident, he discovers an envelope with Black written on it by his father. Inside he finds a key, but no clue as to what it opens. Oskar decides to go on a quest to find out more about the key, planning to visit every single person with the last name Black in NYC. He doesn’t want to accept his father is really gone, and thinks the person that knows more about the key might give him a better explanation of what really happened to his dad…

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is also about man called Thomas Schnell, who we follow in Dresden and later in New York. A man who had lost the ones he loved during the bombings in Dresden in 1945, and from then on was afraid to love or be loved. And he became a man who was slowly losing his speech. Soon Thomas can only communicate with others through his written words, and fills books and books with words and feelings used in daily life. He is the man that would be the grandfather of Oskar, but also the man that would disappear before Oskar’s father would be born… And the man that has YES and NO tatooed on his left and right hand, even though life itself isn’t that simple.

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Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is not the typical book, but it is without doubt worth reading. I myself loved the prose Safran Foer used to describe both Oskar and his grandfather, and Oskar’s search for more information about his father is endearing. Interesting read!