I picked up Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close after being fairly entertained by author Jonathan Safran Foer’s preceding novel, Everything Is Illuminated. This story is about Oskar Schell, an unusual young boy whose narration is eccentric and quite Holden Caulfield-like. Oskar is shockingly inventive, intelligent, and mature beyond his years. But in other ways, he’s socially underdeveloped, insecure, and hypersensitive. It’s ambiguous whether Oskar has Aspergers syndrome. The driving force behind his obsessive thoughts and extreme emotions is the death of his father on 9/11.
When Oskar finds a key with the name “Black” in his father’s closet, he’s convinced that his deceased father left him one last task: to find the key’s corresponding lock. So Oskar sets off on a quest around New York City to find every person with the surname Black, hoping to uncover the mystery behind the key. Also sharing the spotlight with Oskar is the story of his German grandparents, paralleling the Dresden bombings – which they witnessed – with the events of 9/11. This book stretches the parameters of the traditional novel, in that it features colors, pictures, font and format variations, and even blank pages – all representing Oskar’s own unique and outside-the-box perspective. An original work of contemporary fiction, which I would recommend.