Jonathan Safran Foer's Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close tells the story of Oskar Schell, a nine year-old emotionally fragile boy who keeps away the "heavy boots" by his numerous obsessions - inventing time and energy saving devices, writing letters to famous scientists, the Beatles, and keeping scraps and pictures in his personal journal. The heavy boots are the result of losing his father during the attacks on the World Trade Center. One day Oskar finds a key in his father's closet hidden in a vase. With little go on but the word "Black" written in red ink on the envelope the key was in, Oskar embarks on a quest throughout the city to find the lock the key opens.
Utilizing multiple narratives, unique and offbeat characters and style devices straight out of Vonnegut and Breakfast of Champions, Foer weaves a modern fairy tale about loss and hope, about family lost and family found, and the search for peace in the aftermath of 9/11. You can't help but be reminded of other great novels: The Tin Drum (whose immortal Oskar provided the inspiration for Foer' own tambourine-shaking protagonist), A Prayer for Owen Meany, and of course Breakfast of Champions with it's collage of images accompanying the text.
But Extremely Loud lives on its own two feet. One of the most beautiful passages recounts a story Oskar's father tells him about the mystical sixth borough, which slowly grew further and further away until at least it lost all contact with the rest of New York, leaving behind a small stretch of land that would become Central Park. The imagery of the park being moved, or the annual jumping ritual and of the children laying on the carpet of park as it is moved to Manhattan feels like it came straight out of the mind of Italo Calvino, and serves as a stirring testament of the magic and wonder the city still holds after all the damage it has taken. The story is just one of many great moments in the book, one not to be missed.