Monday, February 20, 2012

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, by Jonathan Safran Foer

I started reading this novel at my eleven-year-old daughter's elementary school's roaring twenties gala. I knew to take along a book, because at the last school function, a seventies soiree, she asked me not to dance with her. Then I was crushed, but this time I was happy to find a little corner beneath a dim light and submerge.

I thought I would be crying my eyes out, knowing the subject matter was a boy's loss of his father on 9/11, but for the first third of the novel, and then intermittently throughout, I laughed my head off. I forgot I was at an elementary school dance, as I wiped tears from my eyes and threw my head back in uncontrollable laughter. A mother sitting next to me assumed I was laughing at a kid dancing in front of us. "He is hilarious," she said. I pointed at the book. "This is hilarious," but I didn't want to be sucked into a conversation with her, so I stuck my head back between the pages.

To me, the story was like a cross between The Incident with a Dog in the Nighttime and The Shadow of the Wind. Three different narrators, all with issues, are endearing and tragic in their own ways. We have the boy, Oskar, whose father is killed in 9-11; we have his grandma who helps to take care of him and whose family was killed in the bombing of Dresden; and we have the grandpa he never met and who also lost family and loved ones in Dresden, where he knew Oskar's grandma. There are a host of other interesting characters, equally memorable, which add great depth to the story and illustrate the genuine goodness people are capable of along with the evil.

It's interesting to see the parallels between the two tragedies generations apart and the struggle of the survivors to continue to live in a world where such things happen.

My book club hasn't yet met to discuss this story, but I couldn't wait to blog about it. We are in the process of finding a date on which we can all watch the movie together. After our meeting, I may update this entry to better represent the reaction of the entire group and to add my opinion of the movie.

I highly recommend this novel.