In Jonathan Safran’s Extremely Loud, Incredibly Close we are introduced to 9 year old Oskar Schell, a highly intelligent, inventive, precocious boy coming to grips with the loss of his father who died when the World Trade Center collapsed on 9-11. Oskar discovers a mysterious key in his father’s closet with the word “Black” written on the envelope that holds the key. He decides to interview every person in NYC’s five boroughs with the last name of Black, and sets off every weekend, on foot to find them. At the same time a parallel story is unfolding with Oskar’s grandparents, their diary entries and letters that help them come to terms with their own fractured lives, having lived through the bombing in Dresden.
Extremely Loud, Incredibly Close is wildly creative. It reminded me at the beginning of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. But Extremely Loud is much richer, and the characters’ lives in more need of repair. There is a parallel too, in the Twin Towers and the destruction of Dresden, two generations apart. This book is sad and wonderful, funny and despairing, and vibrantly alive. Highly recommended.