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.