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Sunday, March 18, 2012

Book Review, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

We are taught to obey the rules in writing and most of us do. It takes fearlessness to break the rules and try unique techniques when writing a book because we don't know if a) the book is too avante guard to get published and b) if it does whether the public will accept it. Author Jonathan Safran Foer's book Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close did get published and he is fearless in his experimentation.  You will either love it or hate it. The story centers around 9-year-old Oskar Schell who has been tramautized by his father's death in the destruction of the world trade center. There are actually two stories going on. The first is the story of Oskar's quest to deal with his grief and find someone who can solve a mystery behind a key he found in a vase in his father's closet. It's in an envelope with the words Black written on it and he surmises that Black is the name of a person. As only a 9-year-old would, Oskar decides he will go through the phone book and contact every Black listed in person, one at a time until he finds the solution.

The pain the odd and extremly intelligent child experiences seems very real and his perceptions are often endearing and funny. The second story interwoven throughout this story is that of Oskar's estranged grand parents and the role the fire bombing of Dresden had in shaping their lives. Foer uses unusual techniques throughout the book which includes pictures, pages with single words or lines and more.  He often doesn't identify who is talking when he jumps from one story or point of view to the next. Frankly it got pretty confusing at times. I was captivated by Foer's brillance but also annoyed  because it fractured the story and sometimes frustrated me. Overall it is a very tender and bitter sweet story. My biggest disappointment is that Foer obviously doesn't seem to believe in an afterlife. To him life is what it is and that cast an overwhelming sadness over the story and the characters who are left to deel with deep grief and little hope in the end.

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