Sunday, February 12, 2012

Seven 9/11 Novels

Many novels have dealt with the way the world has changed since the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York City. The following novels show just some of these changes:

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (M)
by Jonathan Safran Foer

With it being an Oscar nominated film starring Tom Hanks, the novel has sprung back into peoples' consciousness. It was the cover of the novel that first drew me to it back in 2005. Mind you, I felt the same about the author's other novel, Everything Illuminated. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close presents the tale of nine year old Oskar Schell two years after his father died during the 9/11 attacks on New York City. Oskar's relationship with his father was "incredibly close" and one of the many things they did together was to solve puzzles. Thus when Oskar finds a key in a vase in his father's closet, he believes it is a clue. In his quest to solve this puzzle, Oskar travels across the city discovering various people's stories. In addition to Oskar's story, is the story of his grandparents and their own survival of the tragedy of WWII. By the end of the novel, beyond the pain and grief of the family, lies hopes. And that is all we can ask for.

Falling Man (M)
by Don DeLillo

Falling Man has been considered by many readers to be DeLillo's finest novel. The first sentence drops the reader right into the action " It was not a street anymore but a world, a time of falling ash and near night". Just that sentence brought back the images of ash covered people running along the streets of New York city in panic. It was so surreal to see this on the television. Keith, a 40 something lawyer, narrowly escaped from one of the falling towers. He turns up "all blood and slag" and "with a gaze that has no focus in it" at the door of his estranged wife, Lianne. There is a mental tug of war in the character. Will he reconnect with his wife and son? Or will he start a romantic relationship with a another survivor, Florence, whose briefcase Keith accidentally took while exiting a stairwell in the tower? Beautifully written, it is well worth the read to find out.

Blow the House Down (M)
by Robert Baer

Robert Baer certainly has the qualifications to write a thriller novel (or two). He ran CIA agents in the Directorate of Operations Department and has investigated numerous terrorist organizations. In Blow the House Down he presents a believable alternative version of the 9/11 events. Max Weller is a middle aged CIA agent who is obsessed with solving the kidnapping and murder of his friend, Bill Buckley. Buckley had in his possession a photograph of Osama bin Laden with a group of people. Who these people are and how they may be linked to September 11 is the premise of this fast paced thriller.

The Towers: a Dan Lenson novel of 9/11 (M)
by David Poyer

David Poyer is a retired American naval officer who began writing in 1976 and has since written over 30 novels. His most popular novels are a series featuring U.S. Naval officer Dan Lenson. The Towers is the 13th novel in the series. What is different with this novel on 9/11 is that the main character is visiting the Pentagon at the time of the attacks (instead of being in NYC). Lenson becomes involved with the military reaction to the attacks. His SEAL team is assigned to a mission that takes them to Afghanistan in order to hunt down, capture and kill Osama bin Laden and the Taliban/al Qaeda leadership. This novel is perfect for adrenalin junkies, as it is fueled with fast-paced action and heart-pumping drama.

One Tuesday Morning
by Karen Kingsbury

And now for something completely different. Karen Kingsbury is a mother of six and is considered the Queen of American Christian fiction. She has written more than 40 novels and has over 13 million books in print. One Tuesday Morning is the first in her September 11 series. The story presents two men, a firefighter and a businessman, both having the "same face". This I found a bit far fetched. The two strangers meet on that fateful day in the stairwell of the South Tower, but only one of them makes it out alive. The remaining survivor has amnesia and is forced to become the man he never was. Like I said, I had problems with this novel, as I do with a lot of romance themed novels. My imagination can stretch quite far, but this was a bit much even for me.

Windows on the World (M)
by Frederic Beigbeder

I found it amusing when I discovered the novel Windows on the World by Frederic Beigbeder. After all, the US created such an anti-French movement for a period of time after 9/11. So when a French author writes a novel on 9/11, I pay attention. Adding to its appeal is the fact that it debuted at number 2 on the French best seller list and won the Prix Interallie in 2003. The novel begins with the striking "You know how it ends; everybody dies!". Alternating between two stories is an interesting concept used in this novel. One of the voices is Carthew Yorsten, a tourist with two small sons, who are having breakfast in the Windows on the World Restaurant, located on the 107th floor of the World Trade Center, on that fateful morning of September 11, 2001. The second voice is that of the author himself, who is having breakfast atop a Paris skyscraper. Each chapter represents one minute from 8:30 a.m. (just before the tower is hit) to just after its collapse at 10:28 a.m. It is a fascinating read.

A Disorder Peculiar to the Country
by Ken Kalfus

The black comedy A Disorder Peculiar to the Country by Ken Kalfus is not your typical book on September 11. Joyce and Marshall are an unhappily married couple. Each believe the other has been killed in the terrorist attack and are horribly disappointed when the other arrives home. Instead of pulling together in the face of tragedy, they become even more disenchanted with each other. For people who enjoy reading dark, funny novels, these characters and this book are primed for you.

So there you have a tragic event that still touches people and has been used for the plot for comedies, romances, thrillers, tragedies and mysteries.

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