Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close vs Christ the Lord, Out of Egypt

I recently finished two first-person stories, which I pretty much read simultaneously, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (by Jonathan Safran Foer) and Christ the Lord, Out of Egypt.  The latter is the first of Anne Rice's two-part novel on the life of Jesus.

Despite their manifold differences, they ended up having a lot in common beyond the first-person narrative. Both narrators were young boys searching for their father, and while Jesus was a lot younger than Oskar (seven/eight versus twelve), they seemed very similar in their fundamental need to who they were, who they belonged to, and how they could possibly go on, given the burdens they carried.

I've wanted to read Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close ever since I saw the movie a few years ago, and it didn't disappoint.  It is a very powerful book that creatively and effectively uses flashback, stream of consciousness, illustration, and typography to get inside the mind of a boy who lost a beloved father in the 9-11 attack on the World Trade Center.  There were many parts of the book that absolutely choked me up and were tough to read for their honest portrayal of the guilt, isolation, and grief that Oskar Schell feels as he struggles to hold on to his father in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy and over the next couple of years. I honestly think this is a modern classic and one that I hope many people will read and experience--it is a novel of our time.

Christ the Lord, Out of Egypt has long intrigued me.  I never read any of Anne Rice's books, vampire or otherwise, as the genre for the most part just doesn't appeal to me.  I do, however, love reading about the ancient world, and I have been eager to see what Rice would do with Jesus, especially considering her very public proclamations about her evolving faith.  I think she did a good job of making the boy Jesus a believable character, and her explanation of the research she did that she included as an afterword was fascinating.

Of the several novels I have recently read that feature the life of Jesus, I still prefer Ann Swinfen's The Testament of Miriam over Rice's Christ the Lord, Out of Egypt and Colm Toibin's The Testament of Mary.  As a novel, it was the most interesting of the three, and despite Rice's popularity, the best written.  I found Rice had a Homeric tendency to repeat her modifiers that I found a bit grating.  Nevertheless, I have a copy of book two of the series, Christ the Lord, The Road to Cana, on order so I'll be reading it later this year.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is part of my TBR Pile Challenge for 2014, and Christ the Lord, Out of Egypt is part of my Historical Fiction Challenge.

Tom Hanks as Oskar Schell's dad in the movie version--one of the best literary dads ever conceived and brilliantly played by Hanks.


  1. Both sound like very intriguing books.

    As you allude to it seems like there are a few different modern and popular takes on the life of Jesus out there. I actually find the topic fascinating. The comparison between authors' views on the issues inherent in the story would be of great interest to me.

  2. I love the ending of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close; it made me cry. Haven't read the other book...yet. Great post.

    1. I cried too at the ending of Extremely Loud; very powerful story.

  3. I love when the books I read play nice with each other! We enjoyed the movie Extremely Loud -- I hadn't thought about reading the book. I may want to do that -- thanks!

    Joy's Book Blog

  4. They both sound great and like books that I would like to read. Thanks for the great review!

  5. I loved Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, the movie, and immediately picked up the book (finally!) but have yet to read it. Moving it to the top of the stack now!