I know it’s cliché, but The Book Thief by Markus Zusak really is one of those books that everyone should read at least once in their life. The writing is beautiful, the story is heartwarming as well as tragic, and the narrator is written from a unique perspective… Death.
The story’s lead character, Leisel Meminger, is a young adolescent growing up in Nazi Germany who is dealing with the harsh realities of life such as the death of her younger brother and the disappearance of her parents. She falls under the care of Rose and Hans Hubermann, who happen to be nice foster parents but have very little to show for all their hard work. The political changes happening in their community and the fact that Hans is not a member of the Nazi Party are really affecting how much work he can get. But overall, the new home that Leisel is forced into is stable and loving.
In her new town, Leisel befriends a young boy her age, Rudy Steiner. As they get to know each other, their friendship strengthens and they relish the time they spend together. The two try to make sense of the world that is unfolding around them. They are both forced into the Hitler Youth and are required to read and carry with them the book, Mein Kampf. They also start witnessing Jewish people being marched through their town on their way to Dachau; many of which are beaten, starving, or even murdered in front of them if they try to escape.
The world is no longer anything Hans, her foster parent, recognizes either. He struggles with trying to do the right thing in a horrific world; like being a good role model for Leisel in these trying times and providing safety for Leisel when he challenges the politics of Nazi Germany.
All in all, The Book Thief takes the reader on an emotional roller coaster that highlights the best in humanity as well as the worst in a world of war and upheaval. Check it out from the library and join us on October 22nd at the Classic Bean (21st & Fairlawn) for a rousing discussion. Fans of this title should also know that it has been made into a movie and will be released in theaters November 15. It stars Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson as the Hubermanns.