Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Book Reviews: 'Where They Found Her' by Kimberly McCreight and 'Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close' by Jonathan Safran Foer

1. Where They Found Her, by Kimberly McCreight
This was a bit disappointing, honestly. I read one of McCreight's previous novels, Reconstructing Amelia, last summer and really loved it, but Where They Found Her fails to replicate the same compelling prose that McCreight created in Reconstructing Amelia. Where They Found Her follows journalist Molly Anderson as she is assigned to cover the developing case of an infant who was found dead in the small town of Ridgedale, New Jersey. The plot intertwines several different storylines of the people who live in the town, most notably PTA president Barbara and her family, Sandy, a high school dropout searching for her mother, as well as Molly's story following her recovery from a miscarriage she had a specific amount of time prior to the case. McCreight is extremely gifted at creating strong, character-driven narratives and that's part of what drew me into her writing in Reconstructing Amelia, but I think she loses herself in it this time around. She spends a bit too much time building characters whose storylines have nothing to do with the outcome of the story. That's not to say that is always a bad thing, but even though McCreight is skilled at building her characters, Where They Found Her's characters aren't all that interesting. She drops a lot of foreshadowing throughout that goes nowhere, and tries too hard to shock her readers to keep them interested. After awhile, I really stopped caring about who killed that baby or who it belonged to, which definitely isn't what you're supposed to feel while reading a seemingly complex, mystery/thriller novel. And, to top it off, the outcome/resolution to the mystery is super weak and unoriginal and it's totally obvious that McCreight was just trying to pick a character that no one would suspect while not making it realistic or believable that the character would do such a thing throughout the rest of the novel. Kind of weak and disappointing, but I'm not giving up hope that McCreight will create another strong, suspenseful novel like Reconstructing Amelia in the future. 3/5 stars.

2. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, by Jonathan Safran Foer:
Anyone whose read this will surely agree when I say it's a very unique book. It's a very unique story, told in a very unique prose. It's told in a very postmodern verse, if I'd be permitted to call it that. It corporates pages that may only have one sentence on them, or an unexplained image, or a page from a notebook with random annotations all over the text. This seems to bother a lot of readers but it doesn't really bother me, because it's specifically unique to this author and his book. But, as a result, the story itself can be really hard to follow. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is mostly about Oskar, a young boy whose father dies in the World Trade Center on 9/11. Oskar and his father were very close and very alike, and that becomes evident early on. I can say that the book is mostly about Oskar dealing with his father's death and the grief therein, but I can also say it's about his anxiety about the world. He's just a worrier, and that's the best way I can describe it. As someone who was a sensitive worrier at Oskar's age and it still a worrier now, it was calming to read. I had a few of those "we read to know we're not alone" moments. I don't want to say I didn't like Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, but it is kind of problematic at times. The story also follows Oskar's mysterious grandfather as well as Oskar's relationship with his grandmother, which is a bit too close at times. The chapters apparently narrated by Oskar's grandfather are very hard to follow and made little to no sense to me, at least in the context of the book. The story also seems to have no resolution, which was a bit anticlimactic, but at the same time, I think Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is supposed to be about reality more than anything else, so the fact that the story receives little resolution (at least concerning Oskar and his father) could be a metaphor for the unpredictability of life (wow, that makes me sound like I'm writing an essay. I'll stop.) SO... I didn't love it, I didn't hate it, but I can appreciate a lot of it and am willing to overlook a lot of the book's strange attributes or things that were left unresolved, because I think that's what the author was going for. I'm going to watch the movie soon too, because Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock. 3.5/5 stars. 

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