Nine-year-old Oskar Schell has embarked on an urgent, secret mission that will take him through the five boroughs of New York.
His goal is to find the lock that matches a mysterious key that belonged to his father, who died in the World Trade Center on the morning of September 11.
This seemingly impossible task will bring Oskar into contact with survivors of all sorts on an exhilarating, affecting, often hilarious, and ultimately healing journey.
~ Synopsis from Good Reads
I don’t know what to say about this book. This will probably be the best book I read this year. It will also probably be the saddest. It’s a depressing book about depression, and although there seems to be some light at the end of the tunnel, it’s really just a small flicker. So, if you are planning to read this, do be prepared in advance. Do NOT read it if you are already in a blue funk, it just makes everything seem that much worse.
As the synopsis says, the story is about Oskar and how he copes with his father’s death. He uses a mysterious key that he finds in a vase in his room, and he tried to find the lock for the key. This seems to him a concrete way to reach out to his dead father. Paralleling Oskar’s journey is his grandparents’ tale of having survived the Allied firebombing of Dresden in 1945, and them struggling to let go of the past trauma.
Combine both these tragedies plus one extremely moving section – an interview with a survivor of the Nagasaki bombing, then you can understand why this book was a bit too much for me at times. Towards the end, I approached the book with trepidation. How much more sad is this book going to get?
The character of Oskar is very endearing, and I loved all his quirks, and I was in awe at his intelligence levels. His interactions with his father are extremely heart warming. The bits about his grand parents though were a bit of a drag. They did suffer a lot in the Dresden bombing, but I found it a bit hard to accept that in 2001, nearly what? almost 50 years later, they are still so traumatized about it. I hated that. It was very unsettling and depressing to read and think that some things are too terrible to get over.
I also don’t care for all the fancy stuff – the font changes and graphics used throughout the book. I don’t think they add anything to the story, in fact, it just distracts from the extraordinarily good writing. The only series of pictures that I love were the ones in the end – a photographic flick-book showing the falling of a man’s body from the World Trade Center in reverse direction allowing the reader to make a man’s falling body fly up, up, up towards the top of a World Trade Center tower, defying the gravity of real life and echoing Oskar’s wish to turn back time and restore his father back to life.
In short, this is one amazing but difficult book to read. I took a long break from finishing this book to write this review, purely because I needed to give some distance from the book before I write anything about it without getting too emotional.
I have his next book Everything is Illuminated on my TBR list, but if it’s going to be as sad as this one, then I will probably take a break before venturing into it. What do you think? Have you read these books? Do I read the next one right away, or is it better to wait?