Book Review: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
Things to know up front...
Recommended to: readers wanting a good cry, deep thinkers, adaptable readers
- Some profanity, including the "f-word."
- There are a few instances of sexual encounters. However, they mostly just describe the action of removing clothes. There are a few uses of sexual terms throughout, for instance, two minor characters ask another if he would rather get a hand job or a blow job from a certain celebrity, and a young boy wants to ask his mother if she is humping her "friend."
- There isn't much violence, but keep in mind that the story keeps coming back to 9/11, as well as an air-raid during WWII. If this is not disturbing, it is, at least, incredibly heart-breaking.
- It's a challenging read. All of the narrators use either figurative language, or have a knack for wording things in a very unique, yet cryptic way.
- Overall, I wouldn't recommend this for young readers. I would say that this could be read by 14 or 15-year-olds at the youngest.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close mostly centers around an extraordinary young boy named Oskar Schell as he ventures to find solve what he thinks to be his father's last puzzle for him in the wake of his death in 9/11. The story is also narrated by Oskar's grandparents, each haunted by tragedies of their own. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is one of the most uniquely styled books of our time, and deeply emotional.
-The narration. All three viewpoints are wonderful. Where others have failed to create a distinct voice in a split-narrative story, Jonathan Safran Foer created not only three distinct entities, but three distinct entities that could each provide a poignant reading experience. I also loved the different styles in which each narrator "wrote": Oskar often used run-ons to contain his sporadic thought process; Thomas also uses run-ons characterized by their incorrect punctuation and grammar; Oskar's grandmother (I'm trying to recall her name, but as I'm thinking about it, I'm not sure she was ever given one) often wrote in short, fragmented sentences that always began several spaces after the period from the last sentence. I adored that each didn't write with technical perfection because it just gave the material such a "real" feel to it.
-The characters. While I loved Oskar and all of the other narrators, it's the minor characters in this book that leave the greatest impression. All of them, while a little bit unbelievable, add the extra "oomph" that makes this story: a man that hadn't turned on his hearing aids for years before Oskar asked him if he would like them on, a woman that never left the Empire State Building after her husband died and lived in some sort of utility closet, a couple that kept museums of each others' life. Seriously, I could go on and on with this. Trust me, they're amazing.
-The heartbreak. Look, it's not like it's rare for me to cry while reading books, but it's also not like I cry at the slightest provocation, either. But let me tell you, I sobbed during this book. There are points where it's so overwhelming that I couldn't always pinpoint why a certain moment made me cry because it was just an onslaught of emotional sabotage. While this is sounding a bit like a negative, it really isn't. The tragedy of the story/stories is beautifully done and so, so, so moving. It isn't just empty sadness; it's the kind that makes you think long afterwards, which is the very best kind.
-The pictures. I've never read an adult fiction novel that incorporates the use of literal images in the way that this one does, but the important thing is that it works. In no way are the distracting, or detracting from the story: they help to make it the unique experience that it is. And don't even get me started on the very final pictures...waterfall of tears, waterfall.
-The ending. If you haven't read this, I promise I'm not ruining anything for you with this next sentence...I adore the lack of resolution because how could there be one in a novel like this? This book at it's most basic level is about a boy trying to cope with the loss of his father, but beyond that, it's about the universal feeling of tragedy that each person holds inside of them and the way it links us all together. Because that theme is so universal and just so real, the ending was perfect. The main conflict was resolved, but not every problem was fixed along the way, in fact, all of the main characters are still pretty broken. This just goes to show that there are some things that people never heal from; there are some things that will just stay with us forever, and this was conveyed beautifully.
-Sometimes it feels like the author is trying too hard. In no way does this ruin the book, but there some of the imagery was very hard to connect to (for me, at least), and it was hard to really find a meaning behind it.
-Jokes on you because there's only one! Ha!
This is an incredibly beautiful, extremely thought-provoking read. I wish I could rant to you about it all day long--but alas!--you probably have a life to get back to! So, I guess what I really want you to take away from this review is this: read it, read it, read it! Even if you don't end up liking it (the overall erratic writing style may not be for you), I doubt you'll regret the unique (I apologize for the sheer number of times I've used that word) experience it will provide you. If nothing else, it will make you want to use the phrase "heavy boots" and kind of make having "yes" and "no" tattooed on your hands sound appealing.
Just me? Okay. Just me. I hope you'll check it out and enjoy!