Tessa: I usually buy books through one of three methods; a book review, a recommendation from a friend who has reasonable book taste or by browsing in the bookstore and reading one or two pages from random books.
I recently picked up Jonathan Saffran Foer’s recently published book Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close on the recommendation of a friend. I read the book quickly and overall quite enjoyed it. The story is set in post 9/11 New York and follows a year in the life of Oskar Schell, a precocious nine year old, who embarks on a journey to find the lock that matches a key that belonged to his father who died in the World Trade Center. The book transitions between the sometimes hilarious journey Oskar takes in the wake of this horrific tragedy and the journey his grandmother and grandfather took over 60 years ago as survivors who lost everything in the firebombing of Dresden. And while the transition between these two stories is sometimes confusing the parallels between Oskar and his grandparents is apt. War takes a heavy toll on those who are left to carry on. The price that is paid is both personal and political. As Oskar, his grandmother and grandfather struggle to come to terms with each other and their loss, a zeitgeist of violence, pain, healing and revenge is created on different levels. Although Oskar’s journey ends in coming to terms with his father’s loss, the looming issue of war is increasingly the cornerstone of all of our realities. In the end the reason I liked this novel as much as I did was because it brought home the reality of loss. War no longer feels so far away. It’s not an artifact of history or of another place. Jonathan Foer lets us know that war is on our turf.