The Blochs are an upper middle-class American family consisting of Jacob, the father: always questioning himself, ambivalent, neurotic; Julia, the mother: artistic, unfulfilled, controlling, argumentative, neurotic; Sam, the eldest son: intelligent, rebellious, aloof; Max, the middle son: hungry for facts which he is always collecting; and Benji, the youngest son: bright child, observant, impressionable.
Sam, who is is studying for his Bar mitzvah, might be expelled from school. Jacob believes his son is innocent; Julia does not. This friction escalates towards a marriage breakdown. Meanwhile, their cousins from Israel arrive for a family reunion and while they are there a catastrophic earthquake causes a crisis in the Middle East. With their own personal crisis and the one in the Middle East, they are forced to do some soul searching.
Safran Foer wrote Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. In this novel, he often puts too much on the plate. He tries to shock his readers which often does not add to the story but rather confuses the issue. The characters are searching for meaning in their lives but often go round in circles.