Nine-year-old Oskar Schell is an inventor, amateur entomologist, Francophile, letter writer, pacifist, natural historian, percussionist, romantic, Great Explorer, jeweller, detective, vegan, and collector of butterflies. When his father is killed in the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Centre, Oskar sets out to solve the mystery of a key he discovers in his father's closet. It is a search which leads him into the lives of strangers, through the five boroughs of New York, into history, to the bombings of Dresden and Hiroshima, and on an inward journey which brings him ever closer to some kind of peace. (Summary and book cover courtesy of goodreads.com)
I loved the premise of the book, but the execution in the book is a little odd. Oskar’s stories are interspersed with letters and thoughts of his grandmother’s. If the story was just about Oskar, I think I would have enjoyed it more. While Oskar was endearing and relatable, I found the grandmother and grandfather difficult to empathize with. Their background was interesting, but their way of coping seems unrealistic and forced.
The book is written in a stream of consciousness manner that you will either hate or adjust to. This provided a good way to understand what was going through Oskar’s head, but it got in the way of the story-telling. For example: the pictures and format in general was a bit gimmicky at times. I will say the pluses of the book were that it forced me to revisit and rethink the lasting impacts of September 11th. Unsurprisingly, however, this was not an very uplifting book. I will be interested to see the movie now that I have read the book.
Rating: 3 stars!
Who Should Read It? New Yorkers, people with interest in 9-11.