Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

So, every once in a while I step away from my usual favorite genres and read something recommended to me by my husband.  We have very different tastes in books, as I am sure many of you know, but I’m open to many kinds of experiences and love to read so I make the jump.

This month, I borrowed Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close from him via the lend function on our Nooks.  Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is well out of my “usual.”  It is about a boy, age 9 or so, who lost his father in the September 11 terrorist attacks.  He is autisitc, and is bullyed by the other children at school.  He knows they are bullying him but he does not know how to react or respond, and sometimes does not understand what they are picking on.  Like anyone who goes through such tragedy, he does not handle the death of his father well.  He spends his days searching for a missing lock to match a key he found hidden in his father’s closet.  Along the way, he meets a number of people with the last name “Black” and learns a bit about himself and his family along the way.

Overall, the premise of this book was interesting, and I really liked Oskar, the boy.   The story was sad – so many individuals impacted by sadness and death all around them.  Is that really what life is about?   Thelesson Oskar learns, that having a mission in life is so important, even if it is as trivial as searching for a lock you know you will not find, provides a deeper level to this indicating that although death surrounds us, we have to keep on living and finding ways to make our lives meaningful.

I was easily distracted, though, by the change in point-of-view as well as the running together of quotes.  I wondered at first if the author did this purposefully because of the young boy’s autism – was he trying to put the reader “in the head” of Oskar?  Once he switched to the letter format of Oskar’s grandparents, though, I knew it was a stylistic choice by the author.  Instead of letting myself get lost in the story, I kept reminding myself to slow down and pay attention to who was speaking and to whom he was speaking – it was quite distracting.  I found the letters throughout the book to be distracting as well.  They added to the story and we never would have quite understood the family dynamic without their points of view, but without a “Dear so-and-so” or a “Love, (name)” at the beginning and end of each, it would take me a few moments to understand who was speaking.  Was the author trying to say something by doing that?  Was he trying to get me to see something I am not seeing?  Let me know if you see something I don’t…

One other confession… Whenever I read a book electronically and there are photographs, it reminds me of an exercise I had in a creative writing course during undergrad where we took a mismash of photos and had to write a story that brought them together.  I felt the same about Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children .  I prefer to use my own imagination instead of having the author inject his or her own images for me to use.  The only exception would be for art work – Alice in Wonderland or anything by Dr. Suess are of course forgiven.

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