Jonathan Safran Foer´s novel Extremely loud and incredibly close tells a story of an extraordinary nine year old boy named Oskar who tries to deal with his father’s death by looking for a lock that fits the key he found in his father’s closet. Four lets us look through Oskar´s eyes into the world around him and lets us feel the sadness and experience the confusion that he has to deal with.
Extremely loud and incredibly close is the second novel of Four. He is mostly known for his debut novel Everything is illuminated. Both of his books have been adapted into films by the same name.
Jonathan Safran Four was born in Washington D.C. as the middle child of a Jewish family. He had a nervous breakdown for three years as a result of a chemical accident in class when he was 8. The moment he decided to try writing in a serious way was after he took writing course with author Joyce Carol Oates. She inspired him to start writing.
Although Oskar -inventor, letter-writer and amateur detective- has had a fear for meeting new people all his life, he more and more conquers that fear during his search for the lock. He travels all over New York to speak to every person that carries the name Black because that is the only clue he found on the envelope with the key.
The book is full of funny, beautiful and heartbreaking quotes. For instance Oskar tells women of his mother’s age they are beautiful and asks them to kiss him or he constantly invents things like long ambulances that could connect every building to a hospital or machines that would play your heartbeat through a speaker. Oskars favourite expression for feeling depressed is wearing heavy boots.
Throughout the book there are letters from his grandparents written to their son or grandson. From the content of these letters you learn their stories and you see how they are trying to live with the things they went through. They were in the bombings of Dresden during World War two which damaged them for the rest of their lives. Just like 9/11 left a scar on Oskar.
This book brought up many emotions when I read it. Sometimes I was hardly able to hold my tears and other times I couldn’t stop smiling. A definite smiling moment was this:
‘What if the water that came out of the shower was treated with a chemical that responded to a combination of things, like your heartbeat and your body temperature, and your brain waves, so that your skin changed colour according to your mood. That way if you were extremely excited your skin would turn green, and if you were angry you’d turn red, obviously, and if you felt like shiitake you’d turn brown, if you were blue you’d turn blue.’
He explains that if your skin would change colour, you would know how to treat people which would solve many problems caused by unshared emotions.
Foer was able to pull me into the story in a way that made it hard for me to put the book aside to focus on other things. It is well written in a simple way and therefor makes it easier to lose yourself in the story. And because the book contains all sorts of things to make the story come to life, like photos and pages of his grandfather’s daybook, it becomes an experience to read this story and I would recommend it to everyone.