12 February 2007

5. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

I loved this book. I might have skipped over it though, since it's new, and the author has a kind of pretentious name, but it was recommended by someone I trust to pick good books, and who hadn't failed me in Book Recommending.

After losing his dad on September 11th (in the WTC), Oskar Schell is feeling bad, or in his words wearing heavy boots. As he wanders through his father's stuff he finds and breaks a vase. Inside the vase is a small envelope labelled "Black" with a key inside. Young Oskar treats it like a riddle, or like a message from his dad. Determined to find out what the lock is keeping safe Oskar travels NYC to find the owner of the lock, from Black to Black.

Across the street from Oskar and his mother's house lives Oskar's grandmother. The story is as much hers as it is Oskar's. When she was a little girl she survived the Dresden bombing. So we get parts of her and her husband's (Oskar's grandfather) story. And it is an interesting contrast and one I would have liked to discuss in greater detail the the Recommender, but alas. That city's worst moment and this city's worst moment. How a city survives and how the people who survive the worst moment recover. If they do. And the emotional echoes that ricochet despite the generations in between. There is all so much to talk about (with her).

All the while I was reading it, over the past week and a half or so, my relationship with my SO has been disintegrating before my eyes with all the rapidity of a low lying sand castle and I kept thinking, "I don't really need to be reading this book" or, "this is not catharsis."

I have to say that while it has not helped me cope with my own grief, I am happy to have read the book. I found the character of Oskar so compelling and real and funny and likeable, that I was hoping to see his pain healed. And I felt so sorry for the grandfather, that I wanted his story to end in a good way, too. Characters that believable don't come along that often, so I have to say that this was a well-written book about love, families, communication, and healing.

All that sounds corny as hell, but I stand by it.

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