Book Review: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

by Jenn (eating bender) on February 22, 2012

My book club’s inaugural read was Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. We had the chance to chat about it last week (right before my adorable nieces became triplets) and I’m excited to share my review with you today. I haven’t had a chance to see the ELAIC movie yet, but am curious as to how it will compare.


In Short

This book takes you back to 9/11, including all the imagery and sadness associated with that day. Its purpose is mainly to tell of a boy’s love for his father, who died in the attacks, but Foer does it in a completely new and unexpected way. The writing style is not exactly eloquent, but it’s not meant to be. It’s meant to be told in the voices of three people who are incurably broken due to tragic circumstances. One of them is a boy named Oskar, who I would say is the main protagonist. Read this book if you are interested in a beautifully written (but admittedly sad) story of love and loss, of failure and triumph – and of the reality that life keeps going forward no matter what horrors happens to us.

(That may be a very dark review, but it is a recommendation.)

The Details

Oskar Schell is a nine-year-old on a mission to search through all five boroughs of New York. Why? To find the lock that fits a key left behind by his father, who died in the World Trade Center on 9/11. His determination will take him through Central Park, Coney Island, Harlem and beyond. On the way, he will be introduced to countless others who have dealt with tragedy, love, sadness and happiness. And he will always be inventing. I can’t tell you the number of crazy inventions this young boy comes up with throughout the novel, the most prominent one being a birdseed shirt that would allow you to fly away – a convenient thing to have when trapped on the roof of a building.

The book ends where it began – at his father’s grave. I will say that the last few pages were incredibly creative and well done. It left my mind reeling in both a good and difficult way. There are so many questions and “what ifs?” from 9/11 – it was tough subject matter, but necessary at the same time.

There are books you can never put down while you’re reading them, and as soon as you’re finished you want to read them again. Then there are books you have to force yourself to get through or put down halfway through, never to read again. If I’m being honest, I’d say Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close falls right in the middle. I read it relatively quickly, it kept my interest and I would definitely recommend it – but it wasn’t necessarily a favorite overall.


Today’s #FebPhotoADay is “where you work.” Although this is technically our dining table, I often call this area my office for two reasons. One, because my desk is usually a bit…cluttered, to say the least. Two, because this table has a window view.

I feel very fortunate to work from home, but I know it’s not for everyone. More on that tomorrow. :)

Have you read Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close? If so, what did you think?


{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

1 em February 22, 2012 at 9:05 pm

I liked this book a lot! I think JSF is one of the most thoughtful writers I have ever read. His imagery is really quite amazing.


2 Jenn (eating bender) February 23, 2012 at 10:11 pm

The ending literally gave me chills – and the pictures he incorporated were so original and well placed. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on it, Em!


3 Kristie February 22, 2012 at 9:50 pm

I really want to read this book… dark reviews don’t necessarily deter me. You can feel emotionally pulled and connected to books that display a variety of human emotions, right? Sometimes I think it’s cathartic to read a serious book and cry a little at how life can be and what people do with what they are dealt. Thanks!


4 Jenn (eating bender) February 23, 2012 at 10:09 pm

I completely agree with you! I love going back and forth between books that make me laugh, cry – sometimes even both. Let me know what you think! :)


5 Melissa @TryingtoHeal February 22, 2012 at 11:06 pm

That book is next on my wish list on my kindle! I just finished a sophie kinsella book that was an absolute crack up! The only bad thing was she uses footnotes for funny anecdotes and it was hard to scroll on my kindle to them to read them. Still hilarious though!


6 Jenn (eating bender) February 23, 2012 at 10:10 pm

Oooh I bet the scrolling would get tiresome after awhile! Which book was it? And let me know what you think of this one!


7 Jess@atasteofconfidence February 23, 2012 at 10:36 am

I saw the movie and it fell pretty much in the middle as well, but worth seeing still.


8 Jenn (eating bender) February 23, 2012 at 10:12 pm

Awesome – thank you, Jess!


9 Cara (Twinthusiast) February 23, 2012 at 11:12 am

Great recap, Jenn.


10 Jenn (eating bender) February 23, 2012 at 10:06 pm

Thanks, Cara!


11 Megan (Braise The Roof) February 23, 2012 at 11:13 am

JSF is an amazing writer- I’m nervous to see the movie because I feel like it won’t live up. Have you ever read any Dave Eggers? I think you’d like him if you like JSF. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius was his best-seller and it’s definitely worth a read if you liked this book! :)


12 Jenn (eating bender) February 23, 2012 at 10:07 pm

There are definitely certain things from the book that I’m wondering if they’ll be able to recreate with the movie. I’ve never read Dave Eggers but thank you for the recommendation. I’ll definitely check him out!


13 natalie (the sweets life) February 23, 2012 at 1:21 pm

This is actually one of my favorite books. Dark, yes, but so well written! I can’t wait to hear what you think of the movie (I really liked it!)


14 Jenn (eating bender) February 23, 2012 at 10:08 pm

Awesome! I’m excited to see it – I just have to find a theater near me where it’s still playing!


15 Emily February 23, 2012 at 9:56 pm

I really liked the book! I read it several years ago and I am interested in the movie!


16 Jenn (eating bender) February 23, 2012 at 10:08 pm

Let me know what you think if you end up seeing it!


17 maudlin March 9, 2012 at 5:27 am

I’m in the ‘love’ camp!


18 maudlin March 9, 2012 at 5:29 am

I love how you draw a parallel between JSF and Dave Eggers, because in my mind that’s what I’ve been doing too. They’re both authors that are being praised into heaven by some people yet slammed for their alleged pretentiousness by others.
Personally, JSF and Eggers are some of my favorite writers…


19 Jenn (eating bender) March 9, 2012 at 1:46 pm

Fantastic! Thank you so much for sharing. This makes me even more excited to read something from Dave Eggers. I truly appreciate your input.


20 David Murphy June 24, 2012 at 4:44 am

For a refreshing review of Foer’s Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, click on


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