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Brilliant, sad masterpiece

5out of 5

by greebs on May 10, 2007

The book is a story about Oskar Schell, a 9-year old whose father was killed on 9/11. Schell is a precocious, intelligent child and also one who has been crushed by his loss. He refers to his sadness as ?heavy boots,? and he wears them often. The story is also framed by Oskar?s grandparents ? his grandfather, who left the family long before Oskar was born, lived through the horror of the Dresden bombing and has lost the power to speak. He is so terrified of emotional pain that he?s withdrawn, staying mute and needing to create ?Nothing? spaces to exist in. His torment is brutal, and because he doesn?t speak (his hands are tattooed with ?Yes? and ?No? to make communication easier), he writes letters to his son from afar.

The book incorporates pictures that Oskar takes with his grandfather?s camera (passed onto him), many of which he snaps while investigating what he hopes is a clue to get him closer to his father, even in death. He discovers a key in a vase his father bought, and is determined to find the lock which it opens. Watching Oskar go through this exercise, and learn how to cope with his loss, and the horror of that day, is a hard thing to do. This is literally one of the sadder books I?ve ever read, but because it?s so emotionally connective, I enjoyed it immensely. Foer is a sickeningly talented writer (married to Nicole Krauss, another talent) and often he seems to be grinning while he writes, but he continues to be able to portray pain and sadness alongside humor in a distinct voice. This is a fantastic book.
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Reviewed by greebs

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