Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

Oskar Schell is nine years old, and his dad, Thomas Schell, died in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11.  Awkward, smart, sad, funny, gregarious and determined, Oskar is on a quest to find the one lock in New York City that the key he found in a vase in his dad's closet will unlock, a key he is sure his dad left for him as one more puzzle to solve.  And since, by his calculations, there are approximately 162 million locks in New York, that's a lot of locks to try. Fortunately, the key was in an envelope with the word Black written on it.  Oskar deduces that Black is name, not a color, so the obvious solution is to talk to every person named Black in the city until he finds the one who knew his father - and has the lock that the key will open.

But the mystery of the lock is not the only mystery Oskar will investigate along the way.  There is also the question of what became of his grandfather, who left and disappeared before his dad was born.  And who the silent tenant is renting his grandma's spare bedroom - if he even exists, because no one has ever actually seen him.  Or why his mom thinks it's okay to fall in love again when Oskar still has such heavy boots about his dad.  And why it is that Oskar believes that finding the lock will let him find his dad again.  As Oskar meets more and more Blacks, more stories unfold and intertwine almost as quickly as the mysteries pile up.  Will Oskar find the lock?  What will he find when he does?  Or, perhaps more importantly, who will he find when he finds the answers?

If you're like me, you have rules about movies and books - namely, that the book must must must be read before you see the movie!  This one's been on my list for ages, and I'm so very glad I read it - so glad, I'm not sure how I feel about seeing the movie.  I think I would like Oskar and his family to stay in my heart just as I have them in my head.  Hilarious and heartbreaking, I loved the way the characters' stories unfold and connect in alternating voices, revealing the truth even as more questions arise.  Told with images, color, letters and voicemails, Oskar's journey across the five boroughs of New York and through his own heart will touch yours as you laugh and cry your way through this amazing novel.