Oskar is a nine year old living in New York, who lost his Father in 9/11. Whilst he is going through his things he accidently smashes a vase and comes across a key. Oskar is sure that the key belonged to his father and so attempts to search for which of the 162 million locks in New York it might open, in an attempt to make sense of the tragedy and keep something of his Father alive.
A parrallel narrative involves Oskar's grandparents, their relationship and the similarity between the Dresden bombings (which they witnessed) and 9/11.
I have to say that I approached this novel with some trepidation, fearing an overly sentimental or schmaltzy examination of 9/11, but I needn't have worried. With the exception of 'If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things' by Jon McGregor, this novel would have to be as close to perfection as I have ever read.
The writing is moving and poetic, with plenty of word-play. It's challenging and funny without ever taking the obvious and tested methods. I would have to say that the writing might not be to everyone's taste, there is plenty of mulling over and description, but for me this just added to the experience.
I loved Oskar and although it is hard to believe that a nine year old would be so accomplished it isn't impossible. There are many explorations in this novel of how people attempt to cope with or make sense of loss. I found the grandfather's story the most moving...to leave an unborn child becasue you can't cope with the thought that one day you may lose it.
I cried through large chunks of this book, and even though it could have been my hormones, it might be one to avoid if you have recently suffered bereavement or if you're going through a rough patch.
I'd give it six stars if I could. Remarkable.