Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is a beautifully written, somewhat confronting tale of how a bright nine-year-old has to deal with the loss of his father to the 9/11 collapse of the World Trade Centre. As soon as I began the first chapter, I knew Oskar would be an unforgettable character. He is a remarkable boy, trying to come to terms with the loss of the most important person in his life in the most awful of circumstances.
The story is told through three distinct voices, that of Oskar, his grandmother and his grandfather, the latter two being written through letters. Oskar is on a quest to find the lock that fits the key he finds in a vase among his father's belongings. He feels it will bring him closer to the father he lost. Along the way, he encounters relatives, new friends and wanders into the lives of strangers and without realising it, he is getting closer to discovering a family mystery.
This book was able to be heavy and light, funny and sober, moving and heartbreaking - all within a page or a paragraph. Heavy matters were handled with care and delicacy and seen through the eyes of a child beyond his years. Funny moments left me smiling, the heartbreaking ones made me cry. It was an intricately woven novel, about the past and the present and the future.
I wasn't quite done with these characters. Oskar's story, the story that started before he was born, is one that will stay with me. Such real, powerful characters created by beautiful prose, by a brilliant and original author. I loved it.