* Will contain SPOILERS
So awhile back I read Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. When I first added this book to the list, I thought it held so much potential to be a truly amazing story. A 9 year old boy loses his father to 9/11, finds a key hidden in his father’s closet, and goes on a long adventure to find what this key opens.
What about that doesn’t sound promising? Right. Now here is where I have a problem with it.
It starts off okay. As expected. Talk of his father’s death, which happens through the book, until we finally learn how he really passed away (which will make you cry, so be prepared for that). Then Oskar finds the key in the closet. Now not only is he excited, but you as a reader are starting to think of all the amazing things this hidden key could open. Could it be another of his father’s little treasure hunts? Oskar never did find what he was looking for at the park. As his story goes on he starts lying to his mother so he can dilly dally around New York looking for whatever this key opens. This is a major problem. WHY IS A NINE YEAR OLD WALKING AROUND NEW YORK ALONE?! Seriously. I get the mother is in grieving, but she’s not going to be so self absorbed that she allows her child, her young child, the one thing she has left, to go wandering around New York alone. And don’t give me that “its okay because he found Mr. Black, the old man, to walk around with him.” That man was a stranger.
Another problem I have is the grandparents. I get that his grandmother means a lot to him and she does a lot for him. They have a very special relationship. I understand that the grandfather left. So I understand the writing letters to his son. But why are they both writing letters not only to their son, but their grandson, and talking about their sex life? That’s not something parents should be talking about with their children, and grandparents certainly shouldn’t be talking about with their grandchildren. That’s more for Friday night poker games with the guys, or over coffee at lunch with the girls. Parts of their story were super distracting from the actual story. Parts of it were nice to know about, because they added to the actual story, but overall I felt that they could have been integrated in a different manner.
The last HUGE thing I had an issue with was the way the story ended. Kind of. I’ll explain. First I was disappointed because he just spent all this time looking for what the key opened, thinking it was something his father left behind as a quest for him to complete. The one last thing tying him to his father. What could he possibly want Oskar to find? So you expect it to be something amazing, something spectacular. Something he designed for Oskar to figure out on his own. That’s not at all what happens. There is no marvelous treasure to be found. There really is no connection between his father and the key other than he bought the vase as a present for his wife. Not knowing there was a key inside it. There was no magical quest for young Oskar. He got to learn at a very early age that life is full of disappointments. BUT in his quest to find something (though he never really found what he thought he would find) He did help someone else dealing with loss find something they were looking for. He also got to go on an adventure and meet a lot of INTERESTING people. He even helped an old man rediscover sounds and the joy of living.
All in all, it wasn’t too bad. I’m happy I at least read it once. But I won’t be re-reading it.