I remember hearing a buzz about this book when it came out (2005) but not much else. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is the second novel by Jonathan Safran Foer. The first was Everything is Illuminated, which was actually made into a film directed by Liev Schreiber and starring Elijah Wood. Foer actually had a bit part in the movie too. I haven't read this one, nor have I seen the movie, but after reading Extremely, I think I'll do both.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is set in New York, not long after September 11th, and told from a variety of viewpoints, but mainly from the point of view of boy. Oskar is smart, thoughtful (okay neurotic) and very funny, in an innocent way. I'm not sure how Foer does it actually, but story is so convincingly written in the voice of a boy, that I was completely taken in by it. Maybe he was a neurotic kid, who kept a diary and was able to look back at his own writing, or he talked to lots of kids... no, it can't be that, its not really the way kids talk, its the way they write. Its got to be the diary thing, or he's a school teacher... whatever, it rings true.
I'm not going to get into the plot line, or how the book is put together, you'll have to read it--experience it--yourself. And you should. It was fun, and funny, and touching. And Oskar tries so hard at everything. And his family, which seems to revolve around him, all know this and worry about him, but not too much.
Foer tells enough of the story for us to follow, but not all of it. Its clear that some of it is not being told, and there are other parts that are purposely being concealed or obscured. In that way its like any family's story: there are always parts that most will never know, and its possible that even the family members don't know all of it, because no one can.
At its core, Extremely is a story of how one family, one boy in particular, deals with what life has to offer, and the strategies that they develop to do so. Not everyone has the same strategies, but we all recognize them for what they are, and it that way we empathize.
In the end, I was left with the hopes and dreams of a boy. But because I'm not a boy anymore, I know they can't all come true.
Read this book. Start in the next 20 minutes.