Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Though I don’t believe it was meant to be, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Roer was quite traumatic. This was another that has been made into a movie, so it was up against my “Would I have said that this would make a good movie?” test. I mean, the movie was nominated for an Academy Award AND stars Sandra Bullock (a personal fave) and Tom Hanks.

As a start, the novel wasn’t anything like I was anticipating. I’m not sure where my initial knowledge of the story came from, but I was under the assumption that a father who died in the attacks on 9/11 left behind a treasure map for his son. While that’s not entirely wrong, it’s not entirely correct either.

The Story

The novel follows three first person narratives, though it’s rather unclear. You learn that it follows Oskar Schell, the son of a man who died during the 9/11 attacks. It also follows the point of view of Oskar’s grandmother and grandfather separately (though Oskar doesn’t know it’s his grandfather), parents of his father.

One night, Oskar finds a key in among his father’s things. The key is unmarked, but was in a small envelope with a single word on it: “Black”. This starts Oskar’s journey to figure out where or who this key belongs to. He treks to every “Black” in New York, spending hours and hours traveling on the weekends. He befriends some, has trouble communicating with other, and then finally gets his answer.

Note: Based on the trailer above, it looks like the movie spends a lot more time with the various “Blacks” than the novel did.

Thomas Schell, Oskar’s grandfather, also shares his story. He left Oskar’s grandmother shortly after learning that she was pregnant (with Oskar’s father, also named Thomas). His point of view is shared through a series of “Letters to My Unborn Child”. He makes a comeback in his wife’s life, but not the one that she was wanting or expecting.

The final story is that of Oskar’s grandmother, who he is very close with. She shares her life story too. From meeting Thomas Sr. to growing close with Oskar, and even Thomas Sr. coming back.


Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close was a good book. It made for a fairly quick read as well. I thought that the addition of the grandparents’ stories was odd, though it did wrap up in the end. Sometimes that was hard to follow. I did tear up a couple of times. The story wasn’t as close to 9/11 as I thought, but it still shared some traumatic moments.

Overall, I thought it was a great book. I don’t believe it is one I would readily grab off the shelf to read again like some others, but I’m certainly glad that I did read it. I will say that it’s quite “sneaky” how they fit “extremely loud” and “incredibly close” into the novel in different places. I always like when that happens.

My Burning Questions

Why doesn’t Thomas Sr. speak? He did previously, but the novel never says why he doesn’t.

What on earth was in the safety deposit box?!

What happened to all of the magazines?

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