Review: Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

“My life story is the story of everyone I’ve ever met.”

Wow. W O W.

I had an inkling when I first tried to read this book that it would trigger some unresolved trauma within me, which is why I set it aside back when it still felt a bit too much. But coming into this now, I can say I’m glad for the wait. I needed it.

Funny enough, I decided to pick up Foer’s book after seeing it in a dream recently where I was roaming the library shelves for the right read. My dream featured Foer’s Here I Am, but in real life, my local library currently only holds his Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. It felt like the right time to dive in.

Firstly, I have to highlight my keen appreciation for Foer’s characters. He breathes life into his creations. I’m a sucker for his dialogue and curious character traits. I still think about a particular line I read in Here I Am that gave voice to the process of growing up – it all happens in one day when you don’t pick up the little one and then you realize they’re not so little anymore.

I have trust in his writing. The quote I opened this review with has been with me since at least 2014. His words have staying power.

Usually, I’d cover my thoughts and feelings throughout my reading. Usually. This book is different in that the last 30 pages had me releasing tears that have felt stuck for the last ten years. Like, I could wash my face with all the tears that kept on coming. I feel compelled to focus on that experience. I’ve never had a book release me so. Is this the peace of mind everyone keeps mentioning? I guess that’s why I kept avoiding this book like the plague.

I’ll admit at first I had a bit of a tough time with this book because I felt so invested in Oskar, and I just couldn’t bring myself to care about this other bizarre storyline happening with his grandparents or the hunt. The author excels at interactions – so please, don’t bore me with subplots of characters we won’t see again.

The book built itself up just for the ending. And so it felt heavy because we spent so much time circling around the real issue for it to then be uncovered so completely felt a bit jolting, at least for me. I mean, that would explain my extreme reaction.

“My search was a play that Mom had written, and she knew the ending when I was at the beginning.”

Oskar’s mental state was all I cared about. The last 40 pages granted me peace of mind after seeing someone you care for finally receiving the attention they deserve. Protect him at all costs, I kept yelling whenever I’d read how no one monitors the terrible things he looks up online (“which I know about but really, really wish I didn’t”). But I have an affinity for his inventions and curiosity, though I feel bad that they keep him from falling asleep. I love the thought that he’d be thrilled to know that some of his inventions finally exist, like the cuddle bed. What a gem of a boy!

What keeps echoing in me are the phone calls (and when the tears really hit):

“Are you there? Are you there? Are you there?”

Tears.

For a book that started off barely keeping my attention throughout it, those last pages really picked up the game. If I were to draw a graph of my reading experience, the spike shows with the chapter, “A Simple Solution To An Impossible Problem.”

It took me a full day to come back to write about it.

Oh, and coming into this book after having watched The King of Staten Island, I can’t help but go back to this scene in the movie that mirrors the thought-process of children who went through trauma: When they drop Harold off at school, Scott tells him to kiss his sister goodbye. “Now, if she dies tomorrow, you’ll remember that.” The end is always in sight.

There’s also this line in the book “the end of missing someone” that pains me because it hit me now as I’m writing that Oskar won’t experience that feeling again… heavy boots. That’s why he’s so eager to hear new memories people have of his dad. Oh. I’m telling you, this read isn’t light.

But the fact that I can write so many lines simply over that ending shows just how its all-encompassing nature. I’ll have to prepare for Here I Am next.

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