By Sierra Maciorowski
Would you search all across New York to find the meaning of a key hidden in a vase in your dead father’s closet? Most people probably wouldn’t, but for nine-year-old Oskar Schell, that link makes perfect sense. Since his father died on 9/11, young Oskar has struggled to find glimpses of the past, and still has an irrepressible hope, although he knows not what for. As he travels around New York City, searching for clues in his treasure hunt, he meets eccentric characters from all walks of life, from the old renter living across the street who speaks with his hands, to the doorman in Central Park. When not sending and receiving letters from various celebrities on the level of Jane Goodall and Stephen Hawking, Oskar struggles to communicate with people in his own life, capturing the attention and interest of some, and losing others to his own alert and in-your-face energy. In the end, with the help of the mysterious renter, Oskar finally penetrates his secrets, both literally and figuratively.
After the recent release of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close in theaters, many people have seen the new movie, but far less have read the book behind the scenes. In this poignant tale of adventure and discovery, Oskar captures the attention of the reader, with his vibrant energy, energetic dialogue, and intellect. However, Oskar himself is not the centerpiece of the story; that title belongs to his absent father. Tying together both the interweaving plots, from Oskar’s and his own father’s points of view, Thomas Schell provides a strong anchor for the strange mash of ideas, images, chatter, and scribbles which makes up this highly-acclaimed novel; through the sentiments expressed by all the characters, especially Oskar and his interactions with his deceased father, the author managed to convey his theme, the will to survive.