The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (2007)

After my daughter read this book, she repeatedly told me that I would love it–and I did.  It took a while, though, to pick it up, and by the time I did, she had read it one or two more times.  I think a part of me wasn’t sure I was ready for another Holocaust or WWII book. In the past year I’ve read Sarah’s Key, Night, and Unbroken.  Was I ready for more devastation, starvation, dehumanization?  Probably not, but since Annie often reads the books I recommend, I thought I should read what she so highly recommended.  What I loved about the book is that it offers so much more than the horrors of the Holocaust.  It’s about goodness as much as it’s about suffering.  We see a Jewish man grasping at a crust of bread on a death march to Auschwitz—but we also see young Liesel willing to sacrifice her own safety to offer that bread.  We see Max hiding in Liesel’s basement, fearful that any moment might be his last—but we also see Liesel’s adoration for him and her home made gifts that decorate his bed.  We see neighbors crammed together in a bomb shelter, fearing that each noise will bring utter destruction–but we also see one young girl brave enough to read aloud from one of her stolen books while they huddle together.  And we see Liesel losing her younger brother and her mother on the same day–but meeting her foster father, Hans Huberman, who calms her each night, reading to her at 2 am when her nightmares chase her awake. We see humanity and we see inhumanity, a constant reminder of the complexity of human behavior.  And we see death–the narrator of the story–who honors his victims, even as he removes their souls.  And on a personal note, Hans Huberman reminded me of Opi, my grandfather, who always had a book in one hand, a cigarette in the other, and a mellow, soothing voice. This book is categorized as young adult, but that sells it short.  It’s accessible, so I hope teens will read it.  But it’s complex and original, so I hope adults will read it too.  Zusak certainly doesn’t minimize the brutality but he also doesn’t dwell on it.  I think he offers us the resilience and the human spirit that keeps us going no matter what life throws our way. (fiction)

One comment

  1. I just read this, and thought it was wonderful. You’re right about the Hans – Opi connection! Your review captured the book so well (as usual).


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