The Book Thief, by Mark Zusak

Book 58

This has been on my shelf for awhile.  I think my book club read it back when I was in school and I interrupted the Holiday Reading challenges for it because I spotted an audio version at the library that I know had never been there before.

For a YA novel, this was intense.  And long, now that I’m thinking about it.  Illiterate German girl is sent by her mother to live with a foster family in 1939.  Younger brother dies on the journey.  Gravedigger drops his handbook or something on the ground and the girl picks it up and puts it in her pocket.  And so we have a Book Thief.

Oh, and the novel is narrated by Death.  How could this not be awesome?

Well, for one thing, it is Germany in 1939.  If the author can’t make us sympathize with our core family right away, the game is over.  So we discover that the girl was sent away because her parents were arrested by the Nazis for being Communists.  Then, we learn that in the last war, the foster-father’s life is saved by a Jewish friend who didn’t make it home.  Son of rescuer/friend needs a place to hide, so now our German family is hiding a Jew in the basement.

The friendship that develops between the young girl and the young Jewish man – two rather broken people –  illustrates the power of stories.  Books and music and the outside world and living in your own head.

As you can imagine, a whole lot of bad stuff happens.  Even with my prejudice against “you know this is going to end badly”, I loved every minute of it.

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