I don't know which is good and which is bad - the yin or the yang - but Vanessa Diffenbaugh's The Language of Flowers and Jonathan Safran Foer's Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close are just that. Last week, I named Language one of my top 12 all-time (see 3/21 post). I even created a new rating - 4.5. But I didn't really like Extremely much. Of course, we all know that Extremely was made into a recent movie with Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock. I didn't see - maybe if I had, I would have liked the book better - but I doubt it.
First, the good news. The Language of Flowers is an amazing book. Victoria Jones has had a really rough life. She has gone from one foster parent to another, followed by one foster home to another. She has had behavioral/social issues wherever she's been. Her one saving grace is that she spent a year and a half with one foster parent and, while there, learned the intricate details about flowers - what they represent and how best to care for them. This will benefit her greatly after she turns 18 and finds herself on her own.
I don't want to tell you any more than that. But I will mention a couple of things. First, a first for me. There were 2 spots late in the book where I actually yelled. At one point I said "Noooooooo." and the other time I said "s__t." I have never spoken out loud while reading a book. Fortunately, nobody was in proximity to me when I lost control of my emotions.
Secondly, I have never in my entire literary life wanted a reconnection as much as I wanted it here. I know I'm getting soft(er) in my old age/dotage, but this darn book is just perfect. I don't know how else to describe it. Already I've spoken/emailed/texted with a number of people who have all, without exception, loved this book. If you haven't read it, do it.
As far as Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is concerned - not so fast. This is the story of 9-year old Oskar Schell, whose father died in the 9/11 attacks. Oskar finds a key in his dad's possession that he tries to match up to a lock. His mission takes him through the 5 boroughs. He encounters many interesting people. I liked that part about the book. But I wasn't crazy about most of the writing. Actually, there were 3 elements of the book that helped me get through it: 1) full-page pictures; 2) blank pages; and 3) 1- or 2- line pages. I know that doesn't speak well of the book, but, otherwise, I don't know how I would have gotten through it. Do you remember when I recently said that I liked Louise Erdrich's The Round House, in spite of the fact that it was a National Book Award winner? Well, this book received the American Place Theatre's Literature to Life Award, whatever the heck that is. My point is that I usually don't care much for an award-winning book as borne out by Extremely. Let's just say that the people who make those decisions are not my kind of people. Oh, and did I mention that there are some paragraphs in Extremely that are 4, 5, and 6 pages long? Really?
Having whined about all of that, there were a couple of places in the book that I thought had impact: 1) "He looked at me and through me at the same time, like I was a stained-glass window" (that's a cool description); 2) Oskar says to his mother "If I could have chosen, I would have chosen you." He's saying that he would have preferred she died in 9/11 instead of his dad. Ouch.
I read Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close because it was the Books, Inc. 4th Tuesday Book Club selection for March. Maybe after we meet this coming Tuesday night, I'll have a different opinion...nah.