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.

Book Review! The Vow by Kim & Krickitt Carpenter with Dana Wilkerson

The Vow

The Vow

Plot:
“The Vow” is the story of Kim and Krisxan (aka Krickitt) Carpenter. I’m sure y’all are somewhat familiar with the film because it stars Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams, but I’m not sure how many are familiar with the true story that inspired the film. I have not seen the film, but after reading the description on Wikipedia & watching the trailer – it is VERY different from the book. The Carpenters address the film & while it was given their approval, they acknowledge it has been given the Hollywood treatment. It only contains the framework of their story, but does not tell it the way it really happened. After a whirlwind courtship & marriage, the Carpenter’s are involved in a horrific car accident that leaves them both with severe injuries. While Kim’s injuries are extensive, he is eventually able to recover. Krickitt, on the other hand, suffers a Traumatic Brain Injury that results in amnesia preventing her from remembering the last year and a half of her life. This is especially inconvenient because that is the exact length of time she’s known her husband. She wakes up from the accident with no memory of her husband or any of their relationship. The book details their life as they struggle to regain a sense of normalcy & figure out how they’re going to move forward.

Review:
– I felt like the Carpenter’s entire relationship was kind of an odd, extreme, only in the movies type romance. For example, they meet completely by chance when Kim is ordering jackets for the baseball team he coaches. Krickitt answers the phone and Kim falls in love with her voice and spunky attitude. He continues to call to “check on his order” & asks only to speak to her. Their conversations quickly become personal and they get to know each other outside of the business transaction. It’s honestly the kind of meet-cute that easily could have been really creepy if Krickitt hadn’t returned Kim’s feelings. I know most people meet completely by chance, but this is just SO random! Out of all the people in the world, he happens to order jackets from a girl that’s his perfect match and then they get in this terrible car accident that makes her forget her perfect husband!? OF COURSE THEY MADE THIS A MOVIE.

– I’m really weird & get excited when I recognize places in stories, I’m not sure why. I guess it helps me feel connected to the story. Henceforth, I was excited when Kim name drops Fullerton, CA & Phoenix, AZ. Krickitt went to Cal State Fullerton – I took a class there and the nearby junior college, so I felt like we were kindred spirits as I’ve possibly wandered the same areas of campus that she had once called home. I travel to Phoenix pretty frequently as I have family/friends there. Kim & Krickitt are traveling to Phoenix, where her parents live, when they get in their car accident. Krickitt spends part of her recovery at the Barrow Neurological Center in Phoenix. Like I said, it helps me feel connected to the story/people to know that we’ve probably driven down the same streets and seen the same things.

– I was a little peeved that the story was 99% told through Kim’s point of view. I understand Krickitt doesn’t remember their relationship before the accident and can’t speak on that subject, but I was interested to know what was going through her mind during the aftermath.

– Kim “doth protest too much”. He constantly assures the reader that the ONLY reason they decided to write the book/go on TV/be interviewed/agree to the film was to spread God’s word. I respect the Carpenter’s relationship with God, that they bonded over their faith, & it brought them peace after the accident. I’m fine with it in theory, I just didn’t know the story was going to revolve around religion so heavily. There’s no way to make this sound nice, so I’m just going to be honest, religion is just not for me. I was borderline uncomfortable with all the references to God. When Kim kept talking about how they didn’t want the attention/money that came with being famous, they just wanted to spread God’s word, I was rolling my eyes. They wrote a book! Obviously, they knew/hoped they’d be making SOME money. I’m not sure they were paid for any of their appearances, but if a Radio/TV station wanted them to appear badly enough, they certainly could’ve paid them. I can’t imagine anyone openly admitting they wanted to capitalize on the tragedy/miracle of their life, but it’s understandable that they would need money considering how expensive their medical bills must have been so I don’t think he needed to justify himself with the religious reasoning.
Another issue I felt Kim talked about way too much was divorce. He mentions numerous times that divorce was “not an option”, “never crossed their minds”, “never on the table”, “never discussed”, “not for them” – dude, we get it! You’re a solid guy that wasn’t planning on leaving your wife in her hour of need. You became famous because we live in a world where you get in a fight with someone and you leave them – and in the face of serious adversity – you both stayed. Granted, you did mention that there was a time you seriously doubted you could live under the same roof together, but you were going to stay married because you made promise to each other & God. I’m not sure how permanently living apart would’ve been much different than divorcing, but okay.

Rating: C
“The Vow” was a quick read for me & I can definitely understand why they chose to make it into a movie. I admire the Carpenter’s commitment to each other and their willingness to work through a very traumatic event. If you like romantic, inspiring tales of love conquering all, especially with a heavy helping of Christianity – this is the book for you.