Sunday Book Club! Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

Today’s Sunday Book Club Review is “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” by Jonathan Safran Foer.

Initial Thoughts:
I was a bit hesitant to review this particular book once I saw the date it would be posted, the 15 year anniversary of 9/11. ELIC centers around the aftermath of 9/11 from the fictional perspective of 9 year old Oskar Schell, who lost his father in the WTC attack. I didn’t want this post to come off as attention seeking, I didn’t intentionally choose to review a book about 9/11 on 9/11, but I think there’s something a bit…poetic, in that it just happened to occur this way. One of the themes of this book & a message I’ve been seeing passed around a lot today, is that life must go on. We must continue to find joy, entertainment, & happiness, despite the horrific tragedy of 9/11. With that, I proudly present my review on this amazingly well written & thought provoking story in the hopes that literature like this continues to be created so that we truly never forget this day.

Plot:
Oskar Schell is not your average 9 year old. He doesn’t have much time for kids his own age, preferring to learn French or take photographs on his grandfather’s old camera. Many of these photographs can be seen throughout the book, almost like illustrations, an interesting addition in a Fiction novel. Oskar carries many heavy emotions as he struggles to cope with his father’s death in the World Trade Center on 9/11. One day while looking through his father’s things he finds a key in an envelope labeled “Black” & thus begins a quest to figure out his father’s final mystery. Along the way Oskar connects with many people struggling with the aftermath of  9/11 or their own personal tragedies, learns a lot about his family, & life in general. There is another plot line & narrator, but it’s hard to say too much without spoiling the twist. The other storyline centers around WWII Germany & not only explains some character’s backstories but shows a time where people experienced similar tragedy & terror like 9/11 & how history repeats itself. The use of this other storyline speaks to what I was saying above, the world will always know chaos. It’s up to the survivors to take that tragedy & create something beautiful from it that will make the world a better place.

Characters:
Oskar Schell – I’m always anxious to read novels where the main character is a child because, to be frank, I don’t really enjoy children. However, I felt a kinship with Oskar in that, we both didn’t really connect with kids our own age, preferring relationships with our family or other adult mentors. Oskar is written in a clever but often naive way. There are a few plot lines, such as his mother’s “love life” after his father’s passing, where Oskar definitely shows a more standard child like attitude. However, at the end of the novel, the reader sees how Oskar has grown & his eyes are opened to another perspective he didn’t see clearly before. Again, not your typical child character, which I appreciated & was able to connect with.

Overall/Rating: B+
Without giving too much away, I was a bit disappointed in the ending. Oskar’s journey to find something about his dad really led him on a journey to find himself & some peace, which is ultimately more important. However, as a person who lost their dad at a young age too, I understand Oskar’s frustration at that abstract concept. I can sympathize because I too wondered for many years, why was there not one last “I love you”, “goodbye”, or bit of grown up advice? The truth of that unfortunately, is that there is always one last something, we just never know it’s the last until it’s too late. I highly recommend this story, especially if you’ve ever struggled with grief or loss of any kind. ELIC made me laugh, cry, think – it made me feel! Obviously I wasn’t in NY on 9/11, but from my point of view this novel has its heart in the right place. I honestly believe Foer didn’t write this story for attention or to make money on a hot button topic. This is not a political story, the focus is on the people that lived & died on that day & how the survivors still struggled. It’s a noble effort to take an event that hit so close to home & explore it with a child-like sense of curiosity & naiveté & create something that can speak to a variety of people.

Have you read or heard of “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close”? What about the film? I’m interested to watch the film based on the book & see how it compares. Please feel free to share your thoughts & book suggestions with me in the comments below!

The next Sunday Book Club is September 25th & the book is “Damned” by Chuck Palahniuk.

Sunday Book Club! The Reflections of Queen Snow White by David Meredith

Today’s Sunday Book Club Review is “The Reflections of Queen Snow White” by David Meredith. The exciting announcement I mentioned last Sunday is that I was asked by the author to read & review this book! Yay – my first Sunday Book Club Collaboration! Disclaimer: I did receive this book for free, but that in no way influences my Review.

Initial Thoughts:
When David first emailed me & offered me the chance to review his book, I was surprised, extremely flattered, & excited. I love this Genre of Fairy Tale retellings or examination from a modern authors point of view, as you’ve probably noticed with my past Book Reviews such as Beastly, Mermaid: A Twist on the Classic Tale, The Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, & others coming up on my Books to Read List. I’ve never read an E-Book, which is the only way this novel is currently available, so I was a little nervous about how I’d feel using “new technology”, haha! I was also nervous because of the collaborative spirit of this Sunday Book Club. It’s tough to be fair when you know the author will most likely read your Review, but I believe I was unbiased. Keep reading & let me know in the Comments if you feel I was being too easy, fair, or too harsh!

Plot:
As the title implies, this story is of course, about Snow White. Meredith continues forward from the tale we know & starts his story with an older Snow White who is not the cheerful, upbeat Disney princess many know & love. She is now bitter, sad, & lonely because Prince Charming has passed away. Snow’s depression & grief have caused a rift in her relationship with her daughter Raven to the point that she is not even involved in the planning of her upcoming wedding. One day while wandering the castle in a state of despondency, Snow stumbles upon the Evil Queen’s old chambers. She finds the Magic Mirror has been stored there & embarks on a magical journey into her past to try & find some peace in this new chapter of her life. I will leave it at that to prevent any Spoilers.

Characters:
– Erfruet – It took way too long for me to piece together that Snow’s “right hand man” is one of THE dwarves. You know….one of the seven! I thought this character was used as a clever & cute way to pay homage to the original story & show how the Dwarves’ relationship with Snow continued after her marriage, connecting the old & new story.
– It seemed like all of the characters had some type of accent & foreign name, except Snow White & Prince Charming. I thought perhaps this was an homage to the Grimm Brother’s & their German heritage, but the accents didn’t seem German so I’m not certain.

Quotes:
– Acknowledgements: “To anyone who has ever known loss, wrestled with grief, & struggled to find themselves again”
This is really what the story is about & I admire Meredith for taking on such a difficult topic & trying to make it more relatable by involving a beloved Fairy Tale character. It’s an interesting topic for this Genre, one that’s not too often explored because most readers don’t want to think about the reality that comes after “happily ever after”. I will touch more on this idea below in the “Overall” section.
– Magic Mirror: “What happens, happens. The past is the past and your past is ever a part of you! Only by facing it can you truly leave it behind. Otherwise, it will ever intrude upon your present”…She felt as if she stood alone on the edge of a precipitous gorge, filled with despair at the impossibility of her predicament, but knowing that her only choice was to descend into its shadowy depths, cross the unseen rocky path at its bottom, and pull herself out once more on the other side.”
The beginning of this passage is really so true, not just about grief, but anything that plagues us from the past. The second half of the Quote seemed like a subtle, or perhaps not so subtle, metaphor for the process of grieving.

Overall:
I could definitely see this becoming a film. While I enjoy Fantasy stories, I sometimes take issue with how unnecessarily lengthy they can be. I know I’ve complained on here a few times about endless pages of scenery. I enjoyed Meredith’s extremely descriptive but mostly concise style of writing. However, it’s worth mentioning that there are scenes of abuse & sexual content that made me rather uncomfortable. Meredith has a knack for creating an intriguing story & providing resolution. There were several times I found myself wondering about a “plot hole”, but later receiving a full explanation. Overall I enjoyed the theme of the story & the unique idea of this stereotypical happy go lucky Princess dealing with grief. I think Meredith was trying to touch on an important point about loss & love. He presents the reader with the idea that throughout our lives we have way more than one chapter, way more than one “happily ever after”. Just because one type of love has left our lives doesn’t mean all love is gone & there’s nothing to live for, it just means our idea of happily ever after has to change. SPOILER! I also appreciated the Feminist angle of the story. The Magic Mirror is trying to make Snow see that although Charming helped her, she played a huge role in her own destiny. She saved herself, but gave the Prince all the credit & after his passing, felt she was lost without him because she did not see her own value.

Rating: B-
Unfortunately, my rating was influenced a bit by the production value. Any book I catch typos in automatically gets knocked down a peg. While I did enjoy the overall theme & message of the book & find them to be important topics to tackle, I can’t support the sex scenes & some of the discussions the characters have about sex/body fluids. I can very well see the interactions taking place, especially in that time period, but that doesn’t mean I want to read about them. That’s the beauty of reading, I’m supposed to be able to use my imagination, haha! Some of those scenes were too descriptive for me & I would imagine other readers may feel the same. While those scenes were not too frequent, they did weigh heavily enough on me that it was almost a distraction from the book as a whole. I would say it’s 50/50 – Great topic/message but some really uncomfortable character interaction!

What do you think? Will you be heading to Amazon to download your own copy of “Reflections”? Please feel free to share your thoughts & book suggestions with me in the comments below! Big thank you to David Meredith for asking me to do this Review – I congratulate you on all of your well deserved success.
If you’re an author or PR team looking for Reviews, please reach out to me – MissAl.Leigh@gmail.com

The next Sunday Book Club is July 10th & the book is “The Fates Will Find Their Way” by Hannah Pittard. Stay tuned & thanks for reading!