Book #37

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

In a vase in a closet, a couple of years after his father died in 9/11, nine-year-old Oskar discovers a key.

The key belonged to his father, he's sure of that. But which of New York's 162 million locks does it open?

So begins a quest that takes Oskar - inventor, letter-writer and amateur detective - across New York's five boroughs and into the jumbled lives of friends, relatives, and complete strangers. he gets heavy boots, he gives himself little bruises and he inches ever nearer to the heart of a family mystery that stretches back fifty years. But will it take him any closer to, or further from, his lost father?

Extremely Sad and Incredibly Beautiful - why do novels hurt more with every reread?

Oskar's journey throughout these pages is wonderful and heartbreaking in equal measures. He suffers a terrible bereavement, makes the mistake of bottling up secrets, and in doing so embarks on a long, almost Sisyphean quest. Although the end result feels very important at the time, the realisation Oskar is simply trying to feel closer to his father has a harrowing, heart-dropping effect.

We explore the impact the bereavement has had on Oskar’s family, and delve into their histories. Foer shows us that death, heartbreak, and tragedy all span generations and leave a lasting imprint on families and their stories. Although the pages are peppered with Oskar’s gorgeous personality, adding much needed lifts and pauses to the sadness, I felt this time the novel was much much heavier than it was on my last read. As Oskar would say, I had heavy boots.

And it’s odd, because I understand and agree with people who don’t like this book. There’s a bit of pretension, it’s a bit off the wall unbelievable, and it’s a truly delicate task to write about such an event tastefully. But I have such a soft spot in my heart for this book which I doubt I will ever let go of. It has a dreamlike quality which I’m more than happy to sink into feet first. I doubt I could ever explain that properly.

Maybe I will wait another thirteen years and meet Oskar again. Or maybe I won’t and I should understand the possibility of this. For, as Oskar says: “Why didn't I learn to treat everything like it was the last time. My greatest regret was how much I believed in the future.”