Recap: In this post 9/11 saga, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close tells the story of 9-year-old Oskar Schell, who sets out on a journey to connect with his father, who died in the September 11th terrorist attacks. The two had a special bond; Oskar’s father used to give Oskar puzzles and tasks to figure out.
So when Oskar discovers a blue vase in his father’s bedroom with an envelope and key inside, he assumes this is one last puzzle his father left for him to piece together. Oskar is on a mission to discover what the key opens. The envelope says “BLACK,” so he starts visiting all the people in New York City whose last names are “Black.”Along the way he makes friends and keeps searching for something that will connect him to his dead father.
Oskar narrates these sections by including letters and photos. Additional narrators include Oskar’s grandparents. They tell the story of how they met, their marriage, their breakup, and so forth through letters.
Analysis: This story is a coming-of-age story told through a very manufactured setting. The 9/11 ties add elements of grieving and loss that make Oskar’s adolescent development all the more complicated. But his quest to find that last connection to his father is empowering and poetic. And the people he meets and relationships he forms along the way also add to the piece.
That’s not to say the book didn’t have its issues. The alternating narrations were an interesting idea, but they weren’t absolutely necessary. The faulty relationship between the two grandparents makes them unlikeable, and I found myself wanting to skip ahead to the portions about Oskar and his search for the lock. The search for the lock is what keeps the story moving. I was as curious as Oskar is about finding what the key opens. And though finding it is highly unrealistic, I felt the same hope he does about uncovering the gift his father left him.
But the end left me disappointed. And while the purpose of every story is to show growth in the main character, I don’t know if I feel as though Oskar has grown very much by the end of the book. And for me, that was another disappointment.
Overall, I would still recommend it. The book is an interesting mix of photos, letters, and narration. For me, the writing of the book was better than the actual content. Plus, it’s coming to theaters soon, starring Tom Hanks (as Oskar’s father) and Sandra Bullock (as his mother). See the trailer below.
MVP: Mr. Black. After Oskar meets him on his “Black”-seeking adventure, Mr. Black decides to join him on his visits around New York City. Oskar is so lonely, so for him to have a companion who watches over him in a fatherly way is beautiful to read about.