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)