This novel brings together the stories of lives devastated by the WW-II Dresden bombings with the experiences of loss of a later generation caused by 9-11. The premise of the book seems to be that these irrational acts of violence causes some of its survivors to behave in irrational ways.
I can be sympathetic to the intent of this book. Unfortunately, the characters described in this book simply rubbed me the wrong way. The mental problems and strange behavior seemed contrived. The young narrator (one of three narrators) of this book has a strange combination of intelligence and social naivete. The kid has a broad vocabulary but limited ability to comprehend other people's words and allusions. At the same time he uses big words and allusions in his own writing and speaking.
The child narrator in this book at first reminded me of "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime." However, it's never stated in this book that the boy has Asperger syndrome. He certainly is obsessive and shows signs of an autistic personality. If I thought the author was trying to get into the mind of a child with mental difficulties to overcome, then I as a reader could conger up some sympathy for the character. But, this writing sounds too much like an adult writer putting big words into the mouth of a fictitious child in effort to develop the aura of "truth from the mouth of babes." I don't think the writer is providing any helpful insight into the difficulties of people who experience tragic losses.
In other words, I don't like this book. My main motivation to continue to the end of the book was so that I could give it one star in good conscience. I have to admit that the ending is better than the rest of the book. I did feel better about the book once I was finished. But I had been looking forward to awarding only one star to the book for so long that I couldn't allow the ending to change my mind.
In order to acknowledge some merit to this book, I have included the following short review that caused me to give this book a try:"Much has been written about September 11, 2001, both fiction and nonfiction. This novel has some things in common with Foer’s wildly well-received Everything Is Illuminated: It uses graphics oddities (ending with a fabulous flip book) and experiments with style; it displays dazzling wordplay and magical flights of imagination; and it manages to elicit deep, sharp emotions, of humor as well as grief, as it deals with war and cultural tragedy. It is an ambitious, powerful novel about timeless themes of loss and the quest for meaning by one of our most promising serious writers."