Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Review of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close would be a tough book not to love. I laughed a lot reading it, and I cried some too. Foer creates characters so three dimensional that they feel like old friends, and for Melanie and I at least, come up in conversation as if they really were.

Set in New York City, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close revolves around Oscar Schell, an adorable nine year old boy who lost his father in the 9/11 attacks. The story explores Oscar's search for understanding and meaning in his father's death, and through that reminds the reader of all that there is to be joyful for in life. In Oscar's suffering is revealed the purity and joy of childhood.

The parallel story is that of Oscar's father's father's life, and while the two work well together and come together in a nifty way toward the end of the book, I found the sections about the grandfather painful to read. Maybe because I loved reading from Oscar's perspective so much that I missed it when I was away from it, but during one particularly long and arduous grandfather passage, I put the book down for almost a month and might not have picked it back up if it weren't for Melanie's urgings. Some of the passages about the grandfather's youth are quite beautiful though, and the parallel story reveals something profound about the transformations that occur between having one's life to live to having lived one's life.

A very pleasant read, and plenty of meaning about joy, sorrow, grief, family and aging. I will definitely be picking up Foer's other novel Everything is Illuminated soon.

8/10 stars.


Jason said...

I loved this book as well Mike. I picked it up not knowing it was about 9/11. I read his other book first--actually I listened to it from Audible. The reader (I can't remember if he reads it himself) has all these cool voices. You'll love it...I really don't how he fits such humor into tragedy.

He went to college with a classmate of mine at Tuck. Have you heard anything about what he's writing now?

Michael Levy said...

I don't know what he's doing now. Do you? Have you read any of his wife's stuff - Nicole Krauss? Word is she writes similarly and quite well.

Andrew said...

I thought you did read "Everything is Illuminated", or did you see the movie?(which I thought was just a silly characterization of the novel..(as many movies from books are).I would definitely recommend reading the book first, as is probably always preferable, don't you think? "Extrememly Loud is next on my lsit, after I finish "Edgar Sawtelle"