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2009 Book Selection

About the Book

From the publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Meet Oskar Schell, an inventor, Francophile, tambourine player, Shakespearean actor, jeweler, pacifist, correspondent with Stephen Hawking and Ringo Starr. He is nine years old. And he is on an urgent, secret search through the five boroughs of New York. His mission is to find the lock that fits a mysterious key belonging to his father, who died in the World Trade Center on 9/11.

An inspired innocent, Oskar is alternately endearing, exasperating, and hilarious as he careens from Central Park to Coney Island to Harlem on his search. Along the way he is always dreaming up inventions to keep those he loves safe from harm. What about a birdseed shirt to let you fly away? What if you could actually hear everyone's heartbeat? His goal is hopeful, but the past speaks a loud warning in stories of those who've lost loved ones before. As Oskar roams New York, he encounters a motley assortment of humanity who are all survivors in their own way. He befriends a 103-year-old war reporter, a tour guide who never leaves the Empire State Building, and lovers enraptured or scorned. Ultimately, Oskar ends his journey where it began, at his father's grave. But now he is accompanied by the silent stranger who has been renting the spare room of his grandmother's apartment. They are there to dig up his father's empty coffin.

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About the Author

Jonathan Safran Foer

From Outside LinkMother Jones -

"Until recently, Jonathan Safran Foer's age got as much attention as his writing. He drafted his first novel, Everything Is Illuminated, as an undergrad and published it to fantastic acclaim in 2002. He still hasn't shaken the wunderkind aura, but he has established himself as one of his generation's most ambitiously versatile writers. Now 28, Foer earns seven-figure advances and has a film adaptation of Everything Is Illuminated (starring Elijah Wood as Foer's alter ego) on the way. He released his second novel, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, in April [2005]. He hasn't limited himself to writing fiction, either. His recent projects include installation art, an opera libretto, and coediting The Future Dictionary of America, a liberal lexicon whose proceeds support the Sierra Club, the League of Pissed Off Voters, and other groups."

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Book Discussion Guide

Adobe PDFOutside LinkClick here for book discussion guide in pdf format.

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Reviews

--from Outside LinkKirkus Reviews
"The search for the lock that fits a mysterious key dovetails with related and parallel quests in this (literally) beautifully designed second from the gifted young author (Everything Is Illuminated, 2002). The searcher is nine-year-old Oskar Schell, an inventive prodigy who (albeit modeled on the protagonist of Grass's The Tin Drum) employs his considerable intellect with refreshing originality in the aftermath of his father Thomas's death following the bombing of the World Trade Center."

--from Outside LinkPublishers Weekly
"Foer embellishes the narrative with evocative graphics, including photographs, colored highlights and passages of illegibly overwritten text, and takes his unique flair for the poetry of miscommunication to occasionally gimmicky lengths, like a two-page soliloquy written entirely in numerical code." ". . . Foer gambles on the power of his protagonist's voice to transform the cataclysm from raw current event to a tragedy at once visceral and mythical. Unafraid to show his traumatized characters' constant groping for emotional catharsis, Foer demonstrates once again that he is one of the few contemporary writers willing to risk sentimentalism in order to address great questions of truth, love and beauty."

-- from the publisher, Outside LinkHoughton Mifflin Harcourt
"Jonathan Safran Foer emerged as one of the most original writers of his generation with his best-selling debut novel, Everything Is Illuminated. Now, with humor, tenderness, and awe, he confronts the traumas of our recent history. What he discovers is solace in that most human quality, imagination."

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Page last updated: January 13, 2010