What does Oskar want to invent? Something that can keep people safe. Something that his dad could have used, so maybe he wouldn’t have died on September 11. A 9-year-old, both wiser and more innocent than most, digs into our deepest fears and longings as he searches for meaning in a life cut short.
Oskar is an intricate, quirky character. His curiosity and his need for a more-than-one-word answer fit with other 9-year-olds I know — although he is a bit over the top on occasions, almost TOO wise. When he finds a key among his father’s things, he begins searching New York City, sure that whatever it opens will shed some light on the man he misses most. Oskar’s not the only character, though, whose viewpoint we read. His grandparents, with their horrible and defining experiences, their complicated history, are explored in fits and starts, and sometimes that was hard for me to sort through. I felt that it was so either so brilliant (or so convoluted) that I was missing things, as if I was swimming through Jell-o and trying to see through it, but then all of a sudden I’d read something really insightful and be OK again.
I think my thoughts on this book boil down to this: loss changes us. It changes us all in different ways, but it surely changes us, and even if we can find our way to a new kind of happiness, we are never the same.
Sometimes funny, sometimes crude, intense and deeply felt, I don’t think I’ll be forgetting this one any time soon.
Rated: Moderate, for some strong/crude language and a few descriptive sexual conversations