Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close - Jonathan Safran Foer

This book had been very subtly creeping around in my periphery for years.  While it was actually published in 2005, it got quite a bit of publicity with the 10th anniversary of 9/11...some even heralded it THE quintessential piece of 9/11 fiction.  Then, as things are wont to happen, I went to SIBA11 and the representative for Mariner Books pulled me aside and gave me a glowing summary of it.  He showed me the pictures.  Then he said the magic words "they are making it into a movie".  I will admit, my heart was racing when I walked away with it in my hands.

Synopsis:  Nine year-old Oskar Schell isn't like other boys his age.  He is scary smart.  He is precocious.  He looks at life differently than most people, with an insatiable desire to understand.  And he lost his father in 9/11.  This gives him some "heavy boots", because he longs for an answer, a story, about how his father died.  All he knows is that his father was in Windows on the World in the Twin Towers when the planes hit, and that he called and left messages on the home phone that he was OK.  Messages that Oskar hid from his mother.

One day when Oskar was in his parents' closet, he finds a hidden key in an envelope marked "Black".  Could this be a clue that will connect him with his father once again?  He and his father had always played a sort of smart version of a scavenger hunt, and perhaps this will be a chance for one more game.  Oskar embarks on a journey to figure out what this key opens, and in the process, encounters dozens of survivors from all walks of life that help this aching little soul to begin to live again.

My thoughts:  I completely fell in love with Oskar.  He delighted me with his combination of innocence and wisdom beyond his years.  He also was the perfect representative for those who had lost a loved one in 9/11.  He was confused, he was plagued with nightmares of his father's last moments, and he longed to move on with his life but at the same time couldn't let go.  He spent hours looking at photos of people jumping, spent hours analyzing his father's voicemails, trying to find answers that made sense.

Oskar's story is supplemented with a creative use of photographs, scribblings, and notes.  Things you don't expect in a novel, and this was exciting.  Different is so so good.  It brought Oskar's mission to life.

But I had one big issue with the story, and that was a part of the plot that I have yet to mention.  The narrative jumps back and forth between Oskar's adventures, and the story of his grandparents.  Sometimes the grandmother speaks and sometimes his grandfather speaks, recounting their past, how they met, their tortured relationship, their individual pieces of baggage that kept them forever psychologically stunted.  Foer is brilliant, so I am sure there is a beautiful and meaningful reason for this plot thread, but in Oskar's words, it gave me heavy boots.  These sections stopped me in my tracks, confused me, brought me down so low that I wanted to stop reading. I'll be interested to see how this section of the book translates to film (if at all).

So what of the movie?  I had to show you the trailer.  It makes me cry.  I have very high hopes.  Please watch:



   
4 out 5 stars (5 out of 5 for Oskar)

        

23 comments:

Beth F said...

I haven't read the book but the trailer brought tears to my eyes. I have the book in audio -- perhaps it's time to read it.

Julie P. said...

I thought this book was sooooo good. I read it awhile back and still remember it!

bermudaonion said...

If you didn't get that storyline, I'm sure I won't, but I'm really anxious to read the book and see the movie!

Nymeth said...

It's been a while since I read this so I don't remember that storyline very well, but I remember LOVING the book. His writing is just something else!

Gayle said...

Sandy, "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close". Wow. I have not read the book but... I want to see the movie in a theater. I agree with Beth, the trailer brought tears to my eyes. Thanks so much for your blog. Love it. Gayle

rhapsodyinbooks said...

Gaah, I haven't read this yet. Must read before movie!

Zibilee said...

I read this one so long ago that I totally don't remember the subplot about the grandparents. Perhaps that means it is time for a reread. I really did love Oskar though, and thought he had such a unique and interesting way of relating to things and thinking about things. He was such a wonderful character. So glad that you loved this one! Great review!

Ti said...

What is it about movie making? An already powerful novel becomes even more powerful given a score and a stellar cast including Hanks and Bullock. I almost shed a tear.

I haven't read the book though. It has been on my radar ever since a book club member raved about it when it first came out.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

I adored this book when I read it back in 2008. I'm thinking about re-reading it before the movie comes out. I'm glad you loved Oskar, he's just wonderful.

Jenners said...

Wonderful review … couldn't have said it better myself. I could NOT imagine how this would translate into a movie but, watching the trailer (which, yes, left me in tears) I can see how they are doing it and getting to the heart of it. I'm quite excited about it the movie now.

Alyce said...

The movie looks like it's going to be great! I haven't read the book, but I'm not a big fan of dual storylines like that, especially if one of them bogs down the book. The boy's story seems like it would compensate though.

Heather @ Book Addiction said...

I read this so long ago that I remember very few details except that I absolutely LOVED it. Thinking of Oskar still brings a little tear to my eye.

Elisabeth said...

I read this with my book group and we loved it! We didn't think the dual story lines bogged down the story at all, but enhanced it.

JoAnn said...

I wanted to read this around the 10th anniversary of 9/11 too, but it didn't grab me after 30 or 40 pages. Think it may have been too soon after listening to Room for another child narrator - I seem to have a notoriously low tolerance. I will give it another chance though.

caite said...

I'm sorry...did you say "SIBA11"?

Meg said...

OMG OMG OMG, Sandy -- how did I not know they're making this into movie?! This is absolutely one of my favorite books of all time -- a novel I've thought about a novel so often over the years, a book that changed my life. I'm absolutely ashamed that I didn't know about the film! But now I'm FLIPPING OUT over that trailer. I have goosebumps. It's going to be amazing. And Tom Hanks, my favorite actor?! OMG.

Off to go freak out some more!

reviewsbylola said...

I read this one a few years ago but I may have to re read it because Foer is coming to speak at the local high school in April so I will have to go see him.

Care said...

This is a fabulous review and I am like you in that I somehow am more motivated to read a book when In know there's a movie being made.
May I suggest you read A History of Love, too. It is somewhat similar and was written by JSF's wife.
Also, in response to JoAnn, pls do try this again. It took me 3 attempts and once I succumbed, I loved it. SO MOVING.

Jenny said...

I LOOOOOOOVED this book! I'm so glad you liked it. The grandparents' part was confusing but I liked it once I figured it out and the whole dynamics with the grandfather and their communication. The trailer for this made me cry though. I was really worried about how this would translate to a movie but I'm sure I'll like it. Have you figured out a release date? I've actually seen a couple dates including Christmas. My husband is reading this now and I plan on re-reading it soon.

Elizabeth said...

GREAT BLOG.

Stopping by to take a look around.

Elizabeth

http://silversolara.blogspot.com

Melody said...

I haven't read this but I did read his other book - Eating Animals. Looks like this will be another powerful read to me!!

farmlanebooks said...

I've had this on my shelf for about 4 years and it makes me a bit sad to realise that I'll probably pull it off the shelf because the movie is coming out. I am a bit scared by everyone saying how emotional it is, which is strange because I normally love that in a book, but somehow 9/11 is different. It is good to see you enjoyed it and I hope I don't have the same issues you do.

Kathleen said...

I have to read this and see the movie! That trailer is so good!