Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close follows 9-year-old Oskar Schell, who lost his father in the 9/11 terrorist attacks on The World Trade Center, New York. Oskar finds a key in an envelope labelled ‘Black’ when he accidently knocks over a vase in his Father’s closet. The boy believes finding the lock it fits will bring him closer to his lost Dad and sets out on a mission around the city, visiting all the Black’s in the phone book one by one until he finds the key’s purpose.
The novel’s narrative primarily follows Oskar whose mind works in fast and complicated movements – particularly since his Father died. The author perfectly reflects this voice not only with the short, face paced sentences, but also the ideas that go through Oskar’s mind that the reader is allowed a full insight into. Oskar’s innumerous fears and worries throughout his day to day life leave the reader feeling just as emotionally drained as the character.
The other voices in the story’s narrative include Oskar’s Grandmother whose past is replayed in the form of letters, which she writes addressed to her Grandson – whether he ever reads them is unclear. We are also introduced to the voice of ‘The Renter’, who is mute, therefore his narrative is mostly presented in the form of short written responses in his ‘day books’, as well as letters that tell the story of his mysterious and ultimately sad life.
The author makes full use of images alongside pages of text to tell the story and help the reader see the world through Oskar’s eyes. Formatting of paragraphs and sentences using gaps and in one case writing that begins to overlap adds to the style of writing to portray the voice of each character as unique.
A truly brilliantly written novel, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is heart-warming and heart-breaking in equal measures. As Oskar’s mission to end his pain and misery gives him a greater understanding of the world it also shows him he’s not the only one who is suffering.