This past week was an opportunity for me to read a much anticipated book which has lived on my shelf for way too long untouched.
So my secret is that this book was not my favorite. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an absolute masterpiece, but it was not an easy read for me (and I read a lot of books that are not necessarily easy reads).
So, the book of the hour, I hear you ask? It’s this:
Jonathan Safran Foer takes his readers into the world according to Oscar Schnell, a nine-year-old boy reeling after the loss of his beloved father Thomas who died in one of the twin towers on 9/11.
Oscar is unique. A highly sensitive, possibly autistic child (though this is never mentioned definitively), Oscar cannot make sense of his world. He endeavors to extend time with his father and keep his memory alive.
When a mysterious key is found in a vase tucked away at the top of his father closet, Oscar has a tool to find closure in the wake of undefinable tragedy. Oscar’s father, a mastermind of treasure hunts, has unwittingly left Oscar a clue that will send him on a quest across the Burroughs of New York City and into the lives of so many affected by tragedy and triumph.
This unfolds a story about Oscar, about his mother, about his grandparents, and about his extended community. About love, loss, grief and closure.
So why not like a book such as this?
Well, for me the overly stimulated mind of Oscar was hard to read through. So too were the highly dysfunctional relationships of his grandparents, who are also dealing with their long-standing emotional issues caused by war-time tragedies. The writing is brilliant but incessant, flowing beyond pages in a type of chaos which is fitting for the protagonist but was exhausting for me to read.
In short- do I recommend this book? Yes. Did I enjoy reading it? No.
However, what I did enjoy was reading it AND then watching the movie.
Doing both together allowed me to make sense of the story and to place the continuous flow of words into a context and brought to life on screen.
Readers should also appreciate the unbelievable story telling and acute understanding that Safran Foer has for the city of New York in a post 9/11 world. He clearly understands and appreciates the conscience of the New Yorker, on the ground themselves, reeling in the wake of the twin tower collapses. Foer also brings the city to life through a unique and highly observant Oscar-specific perspective.
This one was a hard read but it might be one for you.
Let me know what you think.