While it may be true that “you are what you eat,” from time to time, our souls and our minds also get cravings. In cases like these, all you need is a really good book — something that fills you up, that gives you strength and inspiration, that leaves you totally heartbroken but still complete. For me that was Jonathan Safran Foer’s novel Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.
I had been meaning to read this book for a zillion years, and I finally did. I was really excited to do so since I heard a lot of amazing things about it, but, honestly, this was one of those rare occasions when a book not only lived up to my expectations, but blew them away.
Foer is a master of making people feel — making you cry in a train full of people and rearrange all of your priorities, and showing you what loss really means and how hard it is to overcome it.
Our main character, Oscar, lost his father in the 9/11 tragedy, and he has since closed his heart. He closed all of the doors of his young, vulnerable soul, and he tried to bear the unbearable. Reading this, the pain is real. You’re realizing along with Oscar that the person who made him laugh — the person who taught him everything — is gone, and nothing will ever replace him. So, Oscar tries to run away from his life. He runs to inventions, to his little mind-palace, to darkness, and then one day he realizes that his father has arranged one last scavenger hunt for him. This is where hope steps in. This book is about a little boy’s incredible strength, about trying not to give up when everything is lost, and about being tired of life and not sugar-coating it. It deals with depression; it deals with relationships — with being afraid of losing your most precious one and about how your life can stop when your fears become true.
This book won me over with its plot, with all of the unimportantly-important characters, with its quirky style, and with such believable and honest stories — and, of course, with all of the feelings that will crawl into the deepest corner of your heart and stay with you there forever. Extremely Loud and Incredible Close is about being left in our cruel world, facing the obstacles, and overcoming them. It’s about pretending to live, but in fact just surviving from day-to-day. It’s about Something and Nothing.
Overall, though, it is about real people, real problems, real scars, and real struggles. And it is perfect.