Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

In the first half of the novel, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer feeds the reader a wide variety of emotions as a child deals with internal grief and pain. The book centers on Oskar, a nine-year-old who fights to find closure after his dad was killed during 9/11

Using a mix of unique first-person perspectives, the author is able to convey the suffering of three different people. The main narrator as well as character, Oskar Schell, leads the novel with the innocence of a child dealing with grief. Oskar’s lack of understanding and naivety throws other characters for a loop as they are confronted with their pain and loss. Oskar scours San Francisco in search of a Mr./Mrs. Black who may inform him of the purpose of a secret key Oskar had found in his deceased father’s drawer. His upfront conversations with other characters reveal grief hidden in the past uprooted by his blatant inquires. Additionally, diaries and letters were written by Oskar’s two grandparents that demonstrate the challenge of moving on from loss and starting anew. Throughout the novel, dated memos and diary entries inform the reader of past loss as they immigrate to America after the bombing of Dresden, Germany in World War 2. Emotional logs tell the tale of orphans immigrating to New York as they remorse memories of their fallen family members. Their perspectives strengthen the atmosphere as they look back at their life choices and explain their regret to their grandchild. Along with Oskar’s innocence and search for closure, their testimonies contribute to the depressing mood of the novel.


However, while the viewpoints make for a grief-stricken attitude, Oskar’s imagination leaves the reader in awe. While they may have an underlying remorseful tone, Oskar’s made up inventions summarize his brilliance and creativity. Some of his productions have included musical teakettles that mimic a loved one’s voice, synchronized heartbeat bracelets that match with a soulmate, and a birdseed shirt that would allow people to float to the Earth via hungry birds. All of these inventions contribute to his overall identity as he relies on his imagination more. Overall, I look forward to reading the second half and continuing the narrative of the Schells.



1 Comment

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One response to “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

  1. clarkjones1

    The second half of the novel truly upheld the intensity of the prior half. As Oskar continues to search for the meaning of his father’s key, the author delivers a meaningful message contained within his writing style and ending.
    As the book progresses, the author includes several pages with a large variety of images. The pictures support Oskar’s childish imagination as they represent questions a kid may have. The images also demonstrate the complexity of his grief as they are used to showcase how “an image is worth a thousand words”. As Oskar grows closer to the meaning of the key, the backgrounds of the images become smaller. The diminished images suggest that his fear and anxiety are coming to a close as the pictures begin to follow Oskar when he calms down. However, the ending of the book contains several full-scale photos of a man falling from a building during September 11th, 2001. The combined photos amount to a flipbook that Oskar puts in reverse as if he was saving the man from falling.
    These final images are accompanied by the line, “[My father and I] would have been safe” (326). This sentence suggests that Oskar cannot accept his father’s death as he thinks that he could have simply reversed the situation to save his father. The ending sentence contributes to a greater, overall theme that hints that closure cannot always be found externally. The key Oskar obtains ends up being meaningless to Oskar as it’s true owner does not relate to his father. Oskar’s mad hunt towards the purpose of the key disappoints him and suggests to the reader that closure must happen internally instead of externally.
    While the emotion and mood of the novel were strong and unique compared to other books, the story was hard to follow as there were few line breaks between dialogue. This left the reader confused and forced to re-read some parts. Overall, I would give the book a 7.5 out of 10 as it acknowledges the struggle of dealing with loss. I would recommend this to young adult fans as well as anyone searching for an emotional novel. Although I would not re-read this book, I felt that it contained strong themes that are hard to find in other books.

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