Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, by Jonathan Safran Foer

Four stars, read January 2011.

This was one of my “Recommended” books from the 10/10/10 challenge, but I didn’t start it until just after the new year. It was fantastic.

The protagonist is a young boy named Oskar, and he lies about his age so much that I’m not actually sure how old he is supposed to be, but I definitely know that he is older than seven and younger than twelve. Oskar’s father was in the World Trade Center when it was hit, and this book is about his struggle to come to terms with his father’s death. It is sad, obviously, but it is also funny and clever and sweet and insightful.

Before he died, Oskar’s father used to play games with his son that involved things like sending him on scavenger hunts through Central Park with a metal detector. One of these games was abandoned in the middle when the towers were hit and Oskar had no more clues, but about a year later he discovers a key in his father’s closet, and the trail begins again.

Oskar’s story is interwoven with the story of his grandparents, which begins in Dresden just before it is bombed, and the mysterious renter who lives with his grandma and never speaks. Each character’s story is both heartbreaking and hopeful, and you can’t help loving them all. I still need to pick up something else of Foer’s, because this was the first one I read and I had a hard time putting it down.

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