Everyone remembers where they were on September 11, 2001. It’s one of those dates that provides a touchstone for the nation, a common bond that brings everyone together for one shared experience.
For many people, like the characters in Jonathan Safran Foer’s novel Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, 9/11 marks more than just the day when terrorists took over four airplanes to launch a horrific and deadly strike at America.
For many people, it also marks the day when they lost a loved one, a co-worker, a friend or a neighbor.
Foer’s book delves into the world of the Schell family - a family torn apart by the sudden loss of Thomas Schell, who died when airplanes flew into the World Trade Center towers in New York City. At the heart of the story is Thomas’ son, Oskar, who displays the traits of Autism or Asberger’s Syndrome.
Highly intelligent, nine-year-old Oskar lacks the social skills that many people rely on when facing a personal crisis and when going through traumatic grief. He feels alone as he watches his mother, Linda, deal with her own grief.
Going through the motions of daily living, Oskar and his mother drift further apart. They find themselves just existing from one day to the next.
For Oskar, however, a mystery lands in his lap as he finds a key in his father’s closet. They key is inside an envelope with the word “Black” written on it.
Convinced that the key must have some significance and can provide him information about his father, Oskar sets out on a mission to find every person with the last name Black. He’s determined to find the person connected to the key, and he creates an elaborate, methodical process to knock on every door and meet every person in New York named Black.
It is Oskar’s journey, the people he meets, the relationships he builds and the stories he hears that are the foundation of Foer’s book. Oskar finds that each person has their own story of 9/11, and they all have the common bond of being a survivor. It is his journey, the people he meets and the stories he hears that provide him with the ability to start the healing process.