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The Connections of Grief

March 4, 2010

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
By Jonathan Safran Foer

After I had finished reading this book, my sister asked me if it was good and if she should get it on tape so she could listen to it as she drove to Asheville. Without hesitation, I answered that it was very good, but that she should definitely not get the book on tape. The power of Foer’s novel about a precocious boy’s fascinating journey to process his father’s death would be entirely lost if it were only listened to. Much of what makes “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” interesting is the book layout itself. Foer is not shy with graphic gimmicks–the book contains a number of full-page photographs, typographical absurdities (in one section, the words begin to run into each other until they completely overlap, creating an almost entirely black page of unreadable text), even several sections with red-lined edits included. Essentially, the book is a publishing designer’s nightmare. At first, I wasn’t sure what I thought about this. It seemed on par with an amateur magician’s tricks to keep a waning audience interested. But the more I read, the more I realized Foer knew exactly what he was doing.

Oskar Schell is nine years old. His beloved father, Thomas, was killed when the World Trade Towers fell on Sept. 11, 2001. Oskar goes on a personal quest to discover the details of his father’s last moments on earth. He scours New York City, following a trail of obscure clues and joining with a team of randomly encountered strangers. In the end, we are not exactly sure if Oskar has found what he has been looking for, but he is content. And so we are as well.

It’s been a long time since I read a book that made me cry. Somehow, it was good to find one that could accomplish that.

READ IF: You want to know the intricacies and depths of sorrow while ending with the lightheartedness of a boy who was able to make sense of it all.

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