Have you ever read a book that you are not sure you liked but you wish you knew someone else who had read the same book so you could talk about it?
That is how I am feeling about Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.
I haven't seen the movie yet because I wanted to finish reading the book first but I am sure after watching this trailer that the themes of loss and loneliness are the same in both formats.
This is a novel about a young boy, Oskar, whose father is killed in The World Trade Center on 9-11. The reader is eloquently given moving glimpses of the closeness that existed between this boy and his father and the resulting "heavy boots" the boy feels after his father's death. Several months after the "The Worst Day" Oskar discovers a vase and a key in his closet and is convinced that finding what the key unlocks will reveal a message for him from his father and ultimately some relief from his intense grief, guilt and feelings of loss.
I was expecting so much from this book but there were a number of times when I felt like I was pushing through it just to get to a better part or maybe to the end. I found the multiple narrative voices confusing. I realize this is a common writing technique but the transitions between narrators were annoying and I felt that it was more of a distraction than an asset. More than once I found myself wanting to skim through the stories of the self- absorbed grandfather and the pathetic grandmother so I could get back to Oskar.
Even Oskar isn't totally likable. He is, occasionally, borderline unbelievable. This freakishly precocious nine year old inventor, vegan, and jewelry maker would make me laugh at times and next I would think his character was overly contrived. It will be interesting to see how they cast Oskar in the movie. He could either be adorable or just plain irritating. I think, though, what probably makes Oskar still endearing is that his profound, 40- year- old, adult like intelligence is relieved by his childish innocence.
Even though I felt the story was a bit implausible, the author's ability to touch the reader's soul is compelling and his use of photos placed intermittently throughout the book to allow the reader to literally see the world as Oskar was seeing it was rather genius.
The message that I will take away from this book isn't new but these words of the grandmother describing how she never told her sister how much she loved her until it was too late vividly brought home to me again the truth that we never know what the day or tomorrow will hold and if we will ever have that next chance to say and do the things we feel are important.
"I said I want to tell you something.
She said, You can tell me tomorrow.
I had never told her how much I loved her.
She was my sister.
We slept in the same bed.
There was never a right time to say it.
It was always unnecessary.
The books in my father's shed were sighing.
The sheets were rising and falling around me with Anna's breathing.
I thought about waking her.
But it was unnecessary.
There would be other nights."
Would I recommend it? Yes. I crave great writing and although the story didn't meet my expectations the writing lifted this book up to noteworthy status and I would definitely consider reading other things Jonathan Foer writes in the future.