The characters that are in this story are Oskar schell, Thomas schell, grandma Oskars mom, Oskars dad, Mr black, Abby black, Ruth black, William black, Ron, Dr fein, Stephen hawking, and last jimmy snyder. The story takes two years after 9/11 as Oskar travels across New York city to find out what a key left by his father who passed opens.
Oskar goes into his father's room and finds a vase. Oskar tries to reach it but fails and the vase falls and breaks. To Oskar's surprise, there was an envelope with a key hidden inside with the word black written on the outside with a red pen. Wanting to know what this all means Oskar starts his journey by visiting everyone with the last name black.
Oskar travels to Abby black's house to find out more information about the key but she tells him to talk to her ex-husband William black for more information. When Oskar meets William, Oskar starts to tell him about his past and how he blames his father's death on himself. William is shocked but is even more when Oskar starts to tell him about the key. William tells Oskar that the key was for his father's safe and did not know it was in the blue vase Oskar's dad bought. Oskar is upset at the thought the key did not lead to something his father owned or left for him so he goes to see him.
Oskar imagines a time before 9/11 and how he may never know how his dad really died. Oskar struggles with not wanting to forget about his father and but is also struggling to hold on to him.
Oskar and his grandfather dig up his father's casket hoping to see his father in it. Oskar is sad when he does not find his father in the casket. Both Oskar and his grandfather place things of value to them in his casket and place it back in the dirt to make it look it was never disturbed.
Oskar's grandpa heads home and tells grandma about everything and after their discussion they plan on selling the apartment and move. While Oskar and his mom talk things out and clear up their relationship.