I heard some commotion over the film version adaptation of this novel last year and, when perusing the NYPL digital library a few weeks ago, saw that it was available and decided to download and give it a read.
The main character is a boy by the name of Oskar Schnell. The book is Oskar’s journey to find the lock that matches a key he believed his father had hidden in a vase. A man who had devised riddles and treasure hunts for his son wanted to have one last game. The reader is also pulled into flashbacks of the past, narrated by Oskar’s grandparents as they spent their life dealing with the trauma as survivors of the Dresden bombing during WWII. This sublot is woven in as Oskar continues his search and interacts with his mother, grandmother and those he meets along his search.
After finishing the book, I thought about the title. What was considered extremely loud and incredibly close? Here’s my best bet and an explanation.
“I love you.” The words are extremely loud, no matter what tone you use to say those words, no matter the strength of your vocal chords, no matter if the words are written rather than spoken. And yet, they also bring two people incredibly close. Being able to say I love you is something that Grandma says is “always necessary.” We see the regret in each of the main characters stemming from their inability to say I love you to someone they no longer had. More importantly, the story is the journey of finding closure and healing in the acceptance of what never was and what couldn’t be.
This book is not for the light-hearted reader. There is no fairy tale ending. This story is an accurate portrayal of the struggles of life. Life contains laughter, sorrow, heartbreak, regret, and most importantly, hope. Foer does humanity justice by giving the reader a taste of all life has to offer in his work.