“What about little microphones? What if everyone swallowed them, and they played the sounds of our hearts through little speakers, which could be in the pouches of our overalls? When you skateboarded down the street at night you could hear everyone’s heartbeat, and they could hear yours, sort of like sonar. One weird thing is, I wonder if everyone’s hearts would start to beat at the same time, like how women who live together have their menstrual periods at the same time, which I know about, but don’t really want to know about. That would be so weird, except that the place in the hospital where babies are born would sound like a crystal chandelier in a houseboat, because the babies wouldn’t have had time to match up their heartbeats yet. And at the finish line at the end of the New York City Marathon it would sound like war.”
Nine-year-old Oskar Schell is an inventor, jewelry designer and a pacifist, but particularly lost since he lost his dad on ‘the worst day’, 9/11. Oskar is different from other kids of his age and it’s clear that he is autistic. He gives the key of his apartment to strangers, like the nice guys from Greenpeace, the mailwoman and the pizza delivery guy and likes to crack people up by saying things like ‘When you look up the word ‘hilarious’ in the dictionary, there would be a picture of you.’ He has the intention of helping everyone around him but at the end he always manages to fail. Oskar has the best grandma, who thinks that everything that he does is a million dollars.
Writer Jonathan Safran Foer was living for a short time in New York when the disaster happened. In the mean time was actually working on another book, but found himself thinking a lot about the idea of this little boy who was trying to deal with a great loss.
Foer’s first book , ‘Everything is illuminated’ , was about the holocaust and his second novel isn’t any lighter. But the style of writing he used doesn’t make the book feel so heavy. I have to say that I was actually more laughing out loud than crying, but that’s mainly because the main character has a very funny way of thinking. He is for example confused when a 45-year-old woman refuses to kiss ‘a little’ with him.
Oskar and his dad would sometimes play Reconnaissance Expedition, his father would give Oskar some hints, and then he had to talk to people or go searching in the Central Park for instructions. The last Expedition they never finished. A couple of years later since the loss of his father he finds a key in an envelope ,with ‘Black’ written on it, in a vase in his father’s closet. Oskar thinks that the key belongs to his father, that it’s a part of the Reconnaissance Expedition. But which of the 162 million locks in New York will it open? So begins the quest, in which he talks to complete strangers and walks trough the boroughs of New York with his tambourine. But will it take him any closer or even further from his father? He is afraid of losing him more than he already has, afraid that his mother is already falling in love with someone else instead of feeling miserable all the time.
The story isn’t only about Oskar, there are letters which his grandparents wrote to their son about how they try to live with a loss. His grandparents survived the bombing in their place of birth Dresden in Germany during the Second World War. So not only Oskar is coping with a loss but his grandparents were too, and still are, after all these years.
The difference between books and good books is that good books leave you thinking about them for a day, or a few days if they are really good. This book was really mind blowing. What makes this book different from the other ones is the great lay-out: pictures, letters and business cards, without making it childish. I have to confess that at the end I was bitting back the tears (because there were other people in the room). If you still haven’t read this book, and have to listen to one of your students, then please listen to me: You must read this book.