In this excellent recording of Foer's second novel, Woodman artfully captures the voice of nine-year-old Oskar Schell, the precocious amateur physicist who is trying to uncover clues about his father's death on September 11. Oskar—a self-proclaimed pacifist, tambourine player and Steven Hawking fanatic—is the perfect blend of smart-aleck maturity and youthful innocence. Articulating the large words slowly and carefully with only a hint of childishness, Woodman endearingly conveys the voice of a young child who is trying desperately to sound like an adult. The parallel story lines, beautifully narrated by Ferrone and Caruso, add variety to the imaginative and captivating plot, but they do not translate quite as seamlessly into audio format. Ferrone's wistful growl is perfect for the voice of a man who can no longer speak, but since the listener actually gets to hear the words that the character can only convey by writing on a notepad, his frustrating silence is not as profound. Caruso's brilliant performance as an adoring grandmother is also noteworthy, but the meandering stream-of-consciousness style of her and Ferrone's sections are sometimes hard to follow on audio. Although it is Oskar's poignant, laugh-out-loud narration that make this audio production indispensable.
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Adult/High School-Oskar Schell is not your average nine-year-old. A budding inventor, he spends his time imagining wonderful creations. He also collects random photographs for his scrapbook and sends letters to scientists. When his father dies in the World Trade Center collapse, Oskar shifts his boundless energy to a quest for answers. He finds a key hidden in his father's things that doesn't fit any lock in their New York City apartment; its container is labeled "Black." Using flawless kid logic, Oskar sets out to speak to everyone in New York City with the last name of Black. A retired journalist who keeps a card catalog with entries for everyone he's ever met is just one of the colorful characters the boy meets. As in Everything Is Illuminated (Houghton, 2002), Foer takes a dark subject and works in offbeat humor with puns and wordplay. But Extremely Loud pushes further with the inclusion of photographs, illustrations, and mild experiments in typography reminiscent of Kurt Vonnegut's Breakfast of Champions (Dell, 1973). The humor works as a deceptive, glitzy cover for a fairly serious tale about loss and recovery. For balance, Foer includes the subplot of Oskar's grandfather, who survived the World War II bombing of Dresden. Although this story is not quite as evocative as Oskar's, it does carry forward and connect firmly to the rest of the novel. The two stories finally intersect in a powerful conclusion that will make even the most jaded hearts fall.-Matthew L. Moffett, Northern Virginia Community College, Annandale
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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