Who in the World is Sandra Bullock?

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
by Jonathon Foer

When the movie Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close gained a good share of attention it went on my list of movies to see, although I have to admit it was mainly to see what Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock were up to in an interesting plot about a boy who lost his Dad in the events of the New York City tragedy  of 9/11.  But it wasn't on my reading list until visiting my Oakland daughter who loaned me her spare Kindle loaded with something she thought I'd like to read next. Like it I did!  And I must say I was was inspired by BH's mighty list of book-movie tie-ins.

The book opens with a photograph of a key and there begins the story. It is a first person account beginning with nine-year-old Oskar Schell who is precocious beyond his years both intellectually and emotionally, so it seems like a narrative by a much older person. Oskar considers himself to be an inventor, and his hero who he writes to several times is Stephen Hawking. He would like to meet Mr. Hawking and perhaps be his apprentice. Oskar has self prescribed to try to heal his grief and trauma by undertaking a quest to understand the last hours of his father's life and everything that he can can find to know about his father. When he finds a key in an envelope in a vase in his father's closet along with the single name Black he sets out to singlehandedly contact every person in New York that he can find with the last name of Black.

The rest of the characters in the book, Oskar's family both past and present, are also interspersed in their stories, told in the first person as well. Their histories, going back to the World War II events in Dresden, Germany are eloquent and complex. The Blacks that Oskar meets, such as the forty-eight year old single woman, Abby Black, who he finds both comforting and attractive (he asks her for a kiss), and another Mr. Black who decides to help Oscar on his long list of searches, lend their own interest.

Jonathon Foer amazed me with this novel, so rich both in psychological insights and luring into a web of what ever happened here and how will it turn out. The photographs throughout lend a perfect glimpse into Oskar's thoughts. His narrative is often achingly poetic, such as when he described sinking into his grief as having "heavy boots." This would make a good book-club choice as there are more than thirty copies available for request as well as non-print versions on cd, ebook, and dvd.

As a recommendation for older teen readers, this will be with reservation as there are a couple of brief sexual scenes involving the history of Oskar's ancestors, such as his grandfather painting his first love Anna in the nude. But these scenes are earthy and realistic, and in no way designed just to be erotic.   There is also some very graphic playground talk with Oskar and his playground friends. This book is intended for an adult audience as it does not feature teen characters, but I do believe it would be a good choice for any teen with the freedom to choose to choose among the older teen collection, which has few limitations as to adult content. The journey of Oskar, although a nine-year old, would not be far from their experience at all.

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