Oskar Schell is a nine-year-old boy living in New York City, and trying to cope with the terrible loss of his father in the Twin Towers on 9/11.
Shortly after that horrible day, Oskar finds an odd-looking key in a vase stored on a closet shelf. It's inside an envelope, on which someone has written one word: Black. He seizes on this, and decides that he has to find the lock that the key fits, to learn something important about his father. Concluding that "Black" must be a person's name, Oskar sets out to meet every person in New York City with the last name of Black, and find out who has the right lock.
In the process, Oskar meets all kinds of people, from an amazing range of backgrounds. But in between Oskar's adventures, we learn the stories of Oskar's grandmother, and his grandfather, the husband who left her forty years ago, for reasons he never explained. As the three Schells tell us their stories, a fascinating family history unfolds, and we explore complex and multilayered relationships. Further layered in are Oskar's memories of his father, and the games and stories his father shared with him.
Oskar is smart, lonely, grieving, and coping in his own way, which is often baffling to the adults around him. That's perhaps only fair, since their ways of coping baffle him, too. He's an interesting and likable kid, and anyone who has lost a parent too young, or survived the events of 9/11 will relate to him. I'm very glad I finally stumbled across this book; I'm sorry I missed it when it first came out.
I bought this book.