Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Foer, Jonathan

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Annotated by:
Bruell , Lucy
  • Date of entry: Sep-09-2011
  • Last revised: Sep-30-2011


Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close takes the reader inside the mind of nine year-old Oskar Schell who lost his father in the collapse of the Twin Towers.  Oskar lives with a terrible secret − on that day he arrived home from school shortly after the planes hit the towers and listened to messages from his father on the answering machine.  Hoping to protect his mother from the awful truth and not wanting to face his own helplessness − after all, his father was usually at his jewelry store, and it was just a tragic coincidence that he was attending a meeting at Windows on the World − Oskar hides the machine and replaces it with a new one.  In the days that follow, he accompanies his mother and paternal grandmother to the cemetery with his father’s empty coffin and vows to find out all he can about his father’s death.

Oskar begins by searching his father’s closet.  In a blue vase he finds an envelope with the name “Black” written on it and a small key inside.  Determined to find the lock that this special key will open, Oskar sets out on a journey through the city, contacting all of the Blacks in the telephone book.  As he searches for clues about his father and tries to make sense of a world transformed by terrorism, he connects with people who are enveloped in their own grief and overwhelmed by the world outside themselves. 


As the mother of a daughter who was eleven years old on 9/11, I was impressed by Foer’s uncanny ability to illuminate the inner workings of a child’s imagination, in this case a New York City child whose outward sophistication masks terrible fears and insecurities about the world.  Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is about abandonment, loss, longing and loneliness coexisting with optimism and youthful imagination. 

This is a serious work about a tragic subject, yet Foer manages to infuse the novel with flashes of humor and whimsy.  The author’s inventive use of markings on the type and photos enhance the written word, ultimately creating a work of great poignancy.


This novel won the Victoria and Albert Museum Illustration Award in 2005.


Houghton Mifflin Company

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