Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Book Thief

Even with many many awards to it's credit, I hesitated to read The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I am a wimp when it comes to violence. Reading a book for pleasure involving Nazi Germany seemed to me a contradiction in terms. My 16 year old son is the one who recommended it, which is what pushed me over the edge. (But I still opened it with trepidation.) I honestly don't think I'd ever have believed a stranger, but my son I trusted. I am so glad I did.

The narrator of the book is Death itself, after all. The main character a young girl who is given up by her loving but destitute mother into foster care in the middle of a frigid German winter snowstorm. This is the story of that young girl and her adopted family, street, and town just as World War II was taking shape and exploding.

How could an unknown reviewer be trusted when conveying how gentle. how...caring Death the narrator really was? I don't know how to put into words how a book about such a difficult subject could be so full of hope, really. The German people in this story were not all tarred with the Nazi brush. We know from our history lessons there was and is compassion and humanity in many who don't subscribe to the official party line in war-torn countries around the world. Even when harsh events occured, Death as narrator seemed to dwell more on the good in people than on the bad.

The Book Thief expertly tells a tale of love and support in an ugly racist time. I would never have believed I could be so touched by a fictional Young Adult book about Nazi Germany, but I was. I am grateful to Zusak for writing this book. His characters were captivating. Since I don't have Zusak's magic touch with words, I think you should judge for yourself if it is the book for you or your teen.

Ages: It probably varies from person to person. All I can say is this grown-up loved it as much as her 16 year old son did.


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