One of the top titles on amazon.com for Autism Awareness Month is “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.” My wife read this a few months back and really liked it and I’ve been on the waiting list at our local library. Finally got the book and I think within two days I had read the entire thing.
I think most people are familiar with the premise in the story thanks to the major motion picture featuring some pretty big names including Sandra Bullock and Tom Hanks. I should mention, one of my good friends watched the movie and posted the following on his Facebook, “I haven’t been able to stop crying for over an hour. I’ve run out of Kleenex and moved onto the toilet paper. #disclaimer_for_”Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.”
The entire storyline is intriguing and I felt it was an ‘experience’ reading the book than most books I’ve read recently. While they never directly say that Oskar (the nine year old whose story is one of the main storylines of the book) is autistic, it is featured as a book for the Autism Awareness so I’m assuming that’s enough to go by.
I was intrigued by Oskar’s thought patterns and some of the descriptives used in the story. For example, Oskar describes situations or conversations that gives him “heavy boots” or “makes his boots lighter.”
Take the following quote from page 36 of the book: ‘The average person falls asleep in seven minutes, but I couldn’t sleep, not after hours, and it made my boots lighter to be around his things, and to touch stuff that he had touched…’
Another descriptive was ‘making my brain quiet’ meaning that he could stop worrying and thinking about things and simply relax:
‘I loved having a Dad who was smarter than the New York Times, and I loved how my cheek could feel the hairs on his chest through his T-shirt, and how he always smelled like shaving, even at the end of the day. Being with him made my brain quiet. I didn’t have to invent a thing.'(12)
One of the teachers at our kids school tells the kids that when too many of them are excited and talking that she can’t understand them because their words are ‘bumping together.’ I thought that was a great descriptive that I know my boys process and understand.
Oskar also talks about emotions and there are instances in the book where he doesn’t necessarily understand why the other person is showing an emotion but based on the social cues and learned responses, he decides to show an emotion or act a certain way. One such is when he and his mom get in a fight and he wishes that his mom had passed away instead of his dad. Seeing that his words have hurt her, he makes a joke and smiles and assumes that it solves the situation. The thought process he goes through was interesting since it is more of a learned response and something I hadn’t really thought about too much.
Overall, I did enjoy the book and thought it was a good read. There were parts of the story that I found to be too fictional and drawn together but I did enjoy the overall journey of the book and the incredible emotional journey that the characters take. Good read!