The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Imagine, if you will, the angel of death telling you a moving story about some kids and adults in World War II Germany…not mindless Hitler followers but ordinary people amidst the insanity of the dictator’s regime and all the chaos it brings to disrupt their lives. While some claim to be ardent followers of Hitler, many are just weary. Although his job is never done, and he never gets any vacation time, Death is almost sympathetic to the trials of these humans and even observes how he is “constantly overestimating and underestimating the human race.” His attention was caught by the eloquence and beauty of a single girl’s survival which was encapsulated by a book she wrote of her experiences and lost in the bombing raid of her street, of which she emerged as the only survivor.
Liesel Meminger was given to a foster family after her mom surrenders her only living child because her brother had just died and Liesel’s father was taken away by the Gustapo. Liesel quickly adapts to her new surroundings and becomes fond of her foster father who teacher her to read and appreciate the power of words. Soon the family takes in a Jewish refugee to hide in their basement, and Liesel learns that she has a gift for writing. Max, the visitor, leaves behind a gift for her and dubs her the Word Shaker. As Liesel “steals” books to savor and read, and provide comfort to scared neighbors during air raids spend in a shelter, she finds an unexpected ally in the person of the mayor’s wife who, although separated by class, willingly lets her take books from her library once she cuts off the laundering services of Liesel’s stepmother. Although Liesel loses almost everything she treasures in the surprise bombing raid, she reunites with Max and finds a new life just as she was forced to do when her mother left her.
What makes this book most worth reading is everything that takes place in between to show the beauty and brutality of the human spirit. Hearing the story from Death’s perspective also demonstrates a different understanding of the human race according to the most subtle and kind gestures that can overpower the worst atrocities humanity are capable of committing. The book is written in an interesting style that is punctuated by quick, catchy snippets that give you a preview of what is to happen in each section of each chapter. It’s almost like reading a newspaper headline to have an understanding of the story before it’s even read, and I think this drives you to read on. Although the story comes to an end rather hastily, it provides a very satisfying culmination of everything that takes place in the scheme of things that make it both very believable and riveting.
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