Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

Sunny-Side-Up is a new weekly column celebrating clear blue skies, fancy bookmarks and the snooze button. In other words, expect book/film reviews, DIY crafts and easy recipes for a lovely weekend.

Keep thinking. Thinking would keep me alive. But now I am alive, and thinking is killing me.

Oskar Schell was nine years old. One day, he found a mysterious key in a white envelope in a blue vase in his father’s room, and he’s determined to find its matching lock in hope that it’d bring him closer to his father, who had perished in the World Trade Center on the morning of September 11.

Everything that’s born had to die, which means our lives are like skyscrapers. The smoke rises at different speeds, but they’re all on fire, and we’re all trapped.

You cannot protect yourself from sadness without protecting yourself from happiness.

As a non-American, much of what I knew about 9-11 consisted of that one video, played over and over again. But this novel went beyond that tragic scene and attempted to explore the psychological implications upon victims’ families.

No matter how much I feel, I’m not going to let it out. If I have to cry, I’m gonna cry on the inside. If I have to bleed, I’ll bruise. If my heart starts going crazy, I’m not gonna tell everyone in the world about it. It doesn’t help anything. It just makes everyone’s life worse.

But what’s more intriguing was the parallel narrative running alongside Oskar’s, which unfolded into yet another horrific event that left marked scars in Oskar’s grandparents.

We stopped laughing, I took the world into me, rearranged it, and sent it back out as a question: “Do you like me?”

She wants to know if I love her, that’s all anyone wants from anyone else, not love itself but the knowledge that love is there, like new batteries in the flashlight in the emergency kit in the hall closet.

The book was painfully funny and intensely moving. I would laugh out loud on trains, only to secretly wipe away tears at work. So, I shall stick my limb out to say that if you should read only one book this year, this is the book to read.

When I looked at you, my life made sense. Even the bad things made sense. They were necessary to make you possible.


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