I am haunted by humans.
Throwin’ it back a decade today. Ten years older, and I’m still celebrating Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief. Some books simply have staying power. Some books draw me in and never let me completely leave. One of my mom’s favorite writers, Pat Conroy, professed this wisdom in his book My Reading Life:
Here's what I love: when a great writer turns me into a Jew from Chicago, a lesbian out of South Carolina, or a black woman moving into a subway entrance in Harlem. Turn me into something else, writers of the world. Make me Muslim, heretic, hermaphrodite. Put me into a crusader's armor, a cardinal's vestments. Let me feel the pygmy's heartbeat, the queen's breast, the torturer's pleasure, the Nile's taste, or the nomad's thirst. Tell me everything that I must know. Hold nothing back.
Zusak turned me into an embattled, gutsy German schoolgirl named Liesel Meminger.
Liesel lives in Germany with her foster family during World War II, still reeling from her brother’s death and her mother’s willful disappearance. Her new papa, Hans Hubermann, (an instant beloved literary father figure for Rae and me, so naturally, you’re bound to love him) comforts her by teaching her to read. Words soothe her.
Death is the narrator of the novel, which is a new one. Zusak needed a storyteller who could share Liesel’s dauntless point of view, but he also needed someone to supply snapshots of the war outside of Himmel Street to offer sobering and inspiring insights into the human condition. We can see the horror and the sublime of human choice. I was also reminded that many Germans became bonafide victims of war.
Of course there’s resilience in precocious Liesel that inspires palpable hope in me, it will you too—the kind of hope Anne Frank gave us. The Book Thief is a hauntingly beautiful novel that deserves to be read more than once over the years.
When you’ve finished this captivating read, check out the movie. It will move you too. Here’s a sneak peek:
Posted by Tracy