Thursday, September 20, 2012

"Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" {by Jonathan Safran Foer} Book Review

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
by: Jonathan Safran Foer
Number of Pages: 368 pp
Genre: Fiction
First Published: 2005
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Company


Nine year old, Oskar Schell is an inventor, tambourine player, Shakespearean actor, jeweler, and pacifist.  He is on an urgent, secret search.  His mission is to find the lock that fits a mysterious key belonging to his father, who died in the World Trade Center on 9/11.  Grief-stricken, innocent, Oskar is alternately endearing, exasperating, and hilarious as he careens from Central Park to Coney Island to Harlem on his journey. Along the way he is always dreaming up inventions to keep those he loves safe from harm. What about a birdseed shirt to let you fly away? What if you could actually hear everyone's heartbeat? His goal is hopeful, but the past speaks a loud warning in stories of those who've lost loved ones before. As Oskar roams New York, he encounters a colorful assortment of characters who are all survivors in their own way. He befriends a 103-year-old war reporter, a tour guide who never leaves the Empire State Building, and lovers enraptured or scorned. Ultimately, Oskar ends his journey where it began, at his father's grave. But now he is accompanied by the silent stranger who has been renting the spare room of his grandmother's apartment. They are there to dig up his father's empty coffin.


(3.8/5 STARS)
Mindy did a great job leading our discussion!
She began with a song quiz: “I am the Walrus”  by the Beatles.  The song Oskar’s father would whistle. 
She then moved us into a reflection: Where were you on 9/11/01? 
Each person gave an account of their location on that unforgettable day.  It brought back memories of shock and disbelief, longing to be with loved ones, patriotism and pride for our country.  We felt that Jonathan Foer respectfully confronts the traumas of our recent history.  This book is written with deep compassion, and empathy for human grief, while discovering solace in imagination. There was much to discuss!

There are many themes within this book.  Some we listed were:
     Grief and Loss
     Moving on… or not
     Finding Closure
     The affects of War and Terror
     Mental Illness
     A Loss for Words
And maybe the most powerful one.. Hope.
The book doesn’t move in a linear fashion.  It jumps back and forth between Oskar and the other very complex characters.  Many felt it took a while to find the rhythm, and it may have been more powerful if the author focused on Oskar’s story.  There are also segments with text, written in varying positions and some unusual photographs.  Many liked the additions, and felt it added to the “9 year old” perspective, and caused a deeper reflection into the relationships of characters.

Everyone had a lot to say about Oskar.  We fell in love with his precociousness, the purpose of his inventions, his creativity, correspondence with Steven Hawking, and his “heavy boots.” We loved watching the caring community grow around Oskar and invisibly support him as he pursued his quest.  While Oskar's boots are heavy throughout most of the story, we see that his ability to connect with others and his internal resilience firmly plant those boots on the road to healing.  We drew comparisons between Oskar, his grandfather, and the other characters.   We can’t help but wonder “what next?” for Oskar.  He will definitely stay with us for a very long time.

Overall, the group felt there were definite 5 star moments, but also a few lowlights that brought many ratings down.  Foer made us cry, and laugh out loud, but most importantly, he helped us to remember, to feel hope.

Some of our favorite quotes:

"We need enormous pockets, pockets big enough for our families and our friends, and even the people who aren't on our lists, people we've never met but still want to protect. We need pockets for boroughs and for cities, a pocket that could hold the universe.”

“I have no need for the past, I thought, like a child. I did not consider that the past might have a need for me.”

“I missed you even when I was with you. That’s been my problem. I miss what I already have, and I surround myself with things that are missing.”

Side note:  There are 43 ‘Incrediblys’ and 63 Extremelys’ within this book.

     LANGUAGE/PROFANITY: Extreme                       
     SEXUALITY:  Heavy
     VIOLENCE: Medium
See our picture review for this book HERE.


Mindy Widdowson said...

Betsy...GREAT job!! You captured all of my favorite parts of the discussion!! Not so bad for our maiden voyage! Ha!! ;-) Maybe even kinda fun!?!

Mindy Widdowson said...

Betsy...GREAT job!! You captured all of my favorite parts of the discussion!! Not so bad for our maiden voyage! Ha!! ;-) Maybe even kinda fun!?!

Betsy Long said...

You'd never guess that it was your first attempt. I thought you did a FABULOUS job-- my review doesn't do it justice. It will definitely be a discussion I won't soon forget!