Thursday, February 23, 2012

'The Book Thief'

There recently came a time when I didn't have the desire to read escapist fiction.  I had, of course, four books going at once; sci-fi/fantasy, a boring mystery, and a scathing commentary on the greed of Wall Street ('Greedy Bastards'  Read it.  It will piss you off).  

But one, little book held me fast.  One little book made my bath water grow cold...and I didn't even notice.  That one, little book grabbed my heart and tore it in two.  When I finished it, I sat in that cold bath water, sobbing for what was lost, what should have been.  Sobbing for the courage of a little girl who was lost, was found, found love, and stole books.  She discovered the power of words.  Words which had the power to inspire courage, and the power to make cowards of those who thought they were doing the 'right thing'.

'The Book Thief', by Markus Zusak, opens with the narrator, Death, telling us the story of the Book Thief, living near Munich during WW2.  Written in spare, gorgeous prose, Liesel's story is one of loss and heartbreak.  But when her mother leaves her in foster care, it is there that Liesel discovers love, friendship, and a courage she never knew she had.  

Not only does she attain the understanding of love, she grows curious about the power of words.  It is after her brother's burial when she discovers a book hidden under a mound of dirt and she steals it.  When she settles in at her new home, her perceptions are kept well-hidden until the arrival of a Jewish man awakens a tie she thought long gone.  Her curiosity leads her to steal more and more books.  The mayor's wife is a major source, and their friendship is at once heartbreaking, yet uplifting.  But it is Rudy, her neighbor, who becomes Liesel's 'partner-in-crime' and best friend.  Their 'what could have been' is one of the most heartbreaking passages in the story.   He, and Liesel's foster father, Hans, made me cry more than any other characters in the story.

It is so hard to review a story that is so well-written, so sensitive, so tearful.  A story that will anger you to your very soul.  And although this is listed as a Young Adult novel, it will hold hostage even the most jaded adult heart.  I'll be honest; 'The Book Thief' touches me every time I read it.

And it will touch you, too.

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