Must Read – Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close


I’ve love to read.  I told you last week just how much I love reading.  It’s a huge part of my life.

I’ve always read.  In fact, I don’t remember not reading, although because of my education, I’m told I didn’t read in English until after the 3rd grade.  I was in a Spanish-Immersion program throughout Elementary School.  All day, every day, from the time I was 5 years old, I was completely immersed in Spanish in my classroom.  Every subject from Math to History to Geography was taught in Spanish.  It’s one of the happiest circumstances of my life, both the fact that Spanish is imprinted on my brain matter as a language as much as a memory, and the kids who were in my Spanish Immersion program with me.  We’re still friends, to this day, and they’re some of the most interesting and accomplished humans on the planet.  And my guess is that most of them, if not all, are voracious readers.

All of that is neither here nor there, but it’s something.

Jonathan Safran Foer

The bottom line is that reading, for me, a very happy thing.  I collect books the way some people collect shoes.  Wait, I collect those too.  What else do people collect?  Whatever people collect a lot of, that’s what I do, but with books.  Thrift stores and used booksellers are my kryptonite.  It’s physically impossible for me to leave either without a handful of fascinating looking books.  I have rooms with entire shelves stacked to the brim with books I can’t bear to part with, even if I haven’t read them in 20 years.

It’s kind of a problem, frankly.

I’m constantly thinning out my shelves, giving books away or donating them to the thrift store, but I seem to acquire as many as I get rid of, and I’m pretty okay with that.

A Must Read Book - Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Anyway, a book that’s been on my list for (seemingly) EVER is Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.  I finally read it, and wept when I did.

It’s hard to separate out what I love most about this book, and frankly, this author.  But I’ll be honest and say I’m grateful I didn’t Google the author, Jonathan Safran Foer, before I started reading, because if I had I’d have been horrified / incensed at the words of the critics, about the Foer, and this book in particular.

Foer didn’t get a lot of glowing reviews for Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close from the most prominent book critics, which is ridiculous because his writing is made of magic.  The man (he’s so, so young.  okay, he’s my exact age but that feels terrifically young to be this accomplished) is an absolutely gifted writer.  I’ve seldom been as moved as I was by this book.  I highlighted so much of the book it would be easier to see what I DIDN’T highlight than what I did.

It’s the written word at its most brilliant.


The premise of the story itself is so interesting.  It takes place in New York City, not long after the terrorist attacks of 9/11.  The main character of the book is an almost alarmingly intelligent young boy, whose father was killed in the attacks, and his unraveling the mystery of the circumstances surrounding the whole event.

It’s tricky to explain precisely, because it’s written from the perspective of this precocious, hurting little boy, Oskar, who’s trying to understand why his father is gone.

I’m oversimplifying it by a mile.

A Must Read - Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close Book

The story flashes back in time to before.  Before the attack, before Oskar was born, before Oskar’s father and his parents even lived in America.  It goes back to the story of Oskar’s grandparents who survived the firebombing of Dresden, Germany at the end of World War II, and the story of Oskar’s grandfather, whose deepest, primal inner workings are so like young Oskar.  It’s a story of family, and surviving the holocaust, and the resilience and humor that somehow survive the horror as it weaves into the modern day horror of terrorism and the attack on 9/11.

Such a beautiful, touching story.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

I can’t possibly do it justice, so here are a few of my favorite (of way too many) quotes from the book:

“Parents are always more knowledgeable than their children, and children are always smarter than their parents.”

“I want an infinitely long blank book and the rest of time . . .”

“And then a thought came into my brain that wasn’t like the other thoughts.  It was closer to me, and louder.  I didn’t know where it came from, or what it meant, or if I loved it or hated it.  It opened up like a fist, or a flower.”

“He just looked at me.  Not even at me, but into me, like his detector sensed some enormous truth deep inside me.”

Go read it, ASAP like.

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Hello there! I'm Allison Czarnecki, founder + editor of Petit Elefant, a blog all about style on a budget for every part of your life: style / home / travel / family. I do a lot of how-to beauty + style tutorials, travel posts, easy recipes, home remodel projects, and cool DIY crafts you totally want to try. I'm super happily married (to a hot Polish immigrant) and am the mother of two kids, a daughter and son, all of whom are featured here on the regular. We live in the country but we're a little bit rock + roll. Welcome!


  1. Hillary :

    This is my absolute favorite book! I even made my husband read it before we got married. The author came to my hometown a few years back for a lecture and I got to meet him. It was amazing!

    • Allison :


      I love it! So great. I think all relationships would be off to a good start if there was a mandatory reading list involved. : ) And I’m super jealous you got to meet the author, he seems absolutely phenomenal.

  2. REK981 :

    I loe this book so much! It was one of those that I never gave the movie a chance because I knew it would never stand up to the amazing-ness that is this book. I have never read reviews of the author or book either. Now I am glad I haven’t!

    • Allison :


      I don’t dare see the movie either! There’s absolutely no way a film could do the book justice, no matter how great Tom Hanks is. You know? And I don’t want anything to mess with what I’ve got in my head, character wise. You’re a smart girl, staying away!