Thursday, February 25, 2010

Book 12: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Ah, travel weeks. Those times when I am guaranteed solid time to read while sitting on a plane or in the airport, when I'm having a solo dinner with all the other road warriors in some random hotel restaurant. This was one of those weeks with 16 hours of travel logged, so plenty of time to make headway.
My friend Ashby told me this is one of her new favorite books. My friend Amanda liked it, too. So with recommendations from two such smart people who equally appreciate pop culture trash magazines as well as a good read, I figured I was in for a good time.
I'll be honest. I don't recommend this book for an e-Reader. This is one that should be held and thumbed through, where the stark white pages "Left intentionally blank" will have more of an impact than the quick skim of an electronic screen. There are photographs and illustrations throughout the book to enhance the story, and had I known that when I started, I would have carried the hard copy with me, or put off reading it until I wasn't traveling. As it is, I'll probably re-read this in hard copy at some point, just to get the full experience with it, as it was truly intended.
The writing style is somewhat jarring, stream of consciousness, almost. It takes a bit of getting used to. But from Oskar Schell's perspective, given his age, the randomness makes sense. And since most of the other instances where things seem to be almost spilling off the page are either characters' memories, or letters they are writing, it works. But it did take me off guard the first few pages.
This is the first book in a while where I've stopped to write down a line I love. On page 114 of the hard copy, it is "...literature is the only religion her father practiced...." And I nearly embarrassed myself on the flight home last night by tearing up when Oskar recounts part of documentary recalling the stories of survivors of Hiroshima.
Extremely Loud is set in the aftermath of September 11. The story intertwines past and present lives of the surviving family of a victim who lost his life in the World Trade Center bombings. Young Oskar Schell's last real tie to his father is a key he found in some of his father's belongings. His quest to find out what the key opens is the catalyst for linking together the other characters and their stories.
Really quite a touching book, parts of it took me back to that place I don't like to be when I think about 9/11. So don't read this one if you are looking for a complete barrel of laughs. But if you are looking for a poignant, touching story about surviving, loving and letting people know you love them, then definitely add this one to your must read list.

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