I actually read another book before this one that I have been meaning to blog about, but after staying up late to finish The Book Thief, with tears streaming down my cheeks, I knew I had to write about this one first.
On the back cover of the book, reviews promised that reading this book was one of those life-changing experiences that only a powerful story can achieve. I flipped to the first page with great reverence but skepticism — and I can assure you that upon closing it for the last time last night, I agreed. I am not sure how it will impact my life directly, but it certainly opened a new part of my heart and mind to the vast tragedy of Hitler’s Germany and the Holocaust. While I have read Anne Frank’s diary, Night by Elie Wiesel, and have visited the children’s Holocaust museum — nothing compared to this experience. It was so different and so consuming. It also made me think of all of the ways those lives lost could have changed the world — looking to Greenville’s own example with Max Heller. Max was a Jew who fled Austria just before the Holocaust began and settled in Greenville. He is the father of our town and as mayor, orchestrated the incredibly revitalization and vibrancy that we experience today. He died two years ago but has been memorialized in our community. Six million people, truly?
You see, The Book Thief is narrated by Death. That is established immediately, when Death describes the gathering of souls that occurred during World War 2 within the first few pages. Death is telling the story of The Book Thief, a young German girl who is sent to live with foster parents due to her mother’s poverty. The girl steals books, and though that may sound odd, it is a most poetic thing that the book reveals.
As crazy as it sounds, I never thought about the perspective of the Germans who did not align with the propaganda of the Nazi party, who protected the Jews and sympathized with them — who cowered in basements during air raids and dropped bread crumbs for the Jews marching to Dachau. The Book Thief is one such German.
I don’t want to share too much, but I do want to say that the book is organized non-conventionally and extremely creatively — you will know what I mean when you read it. The ending is horribly sad with a glimmer of hope, and you will cry. But it is wonderful and beautiful — filled with bravery and love, human compassion beyond measure.
Read this book. Just do it.