Yes, I’m late to the game in reading this fantastic novel by Jonathan Safran Foer. There’s no point in writing a book review that would fail to do it justice. But, a few (disjointed?) thoughts anyway:
– I love the unconventional style that merged narrative with handwritten colors, photographs, varying typography, and a flip book effect. These additions complemented the story telling so perfectly; without giving new information, Safran Foer was able to draw attention back to details and perspectives that readers might not otherwise place the same emphasis on, and in doing so encouraged thinking outside the box about meaning and connection, which was a central theme in the book.
– Oskar Schell, in all of his emotions, actions, age, thought processes, manner of speech, and geography, shouldn’t feel so relatable, but he does. Learning about him made me not sure I’d be comfortable around him if I were to meet this fictional character out of the blue, but at the same time, I would probably be charmed and strangely at ease*. And, if I were him, I would have added at *”, just like the Blacks did.” because it would have felt perfectly normal and non-problematic, but then I jump out of his mindset and become his classmate heckling him for unknowingly saying something that could be construed as racist (even though it’s not). So, I get him, and like his complexly-thought-out simplicity, but appreciate that some of the other characters remind us that he’s not an infallible hero.
– The way Safran Foer explores generational gaps through open, direct communication and little patronizing is fascinating. The hierarchy of age is rightly in place, but sometimes it clogs the vectors of communication. Here, we get to watch how completely fine it is for adults to respond to a (rather different, but still) kid’s questions and comments the way they might to another adult, but perhaps more thoughtfully, because it seems to be (correctly) assumed that judgement won’t follow. It was a mechanism through which we saw the essence of characters faster and could experience part of the beauty of Oskar’s relationship with his parents. He, too, was allowed to say anything, which was received with the same weight and consideration that it would have been given a more “adult” speaker.
– I like puzzles and games, both explicit and slowly discovered, and the structure of this book presented so many layers and subsets of each in a way that was manageable for me as a reader because it felt manageable, or at least accepted, by the characters who were a part of them. The scope and implications of each were stated at times numerically, at times in a Feelings Journal, at times in blankly-typed letters, and at times in narrative reflection; they were vast and intimidating on whole, but it was as if the author or characters (i’m not sure who…) took my hand and lead me through the discoveries with them.
– The concept of binary answers, saying what’s easiest to express, and broad generalizations about everything, from great truths to insignificant minutiae, resonated heavily with me, and I can’t really articulate why. But, the thread of these throughout the novel, cut only occasionally by breaks in complacency with that thread, was another important dimension of this book.
Basically, he’s an infinitely better writer than I am (duh) and this book is not one to “add to the list” and forget about….bump it to the top and read it if you haven’t!!!