About the Book (from Random House): Markus Zusak's unforgettable story is about the ability of books to feed the soul. It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still. Liesel Meminger is a foster girl living outside of Munich, who scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement. In superbly crafted writing that burns with intensity, award-winning author Markus Zusak has given us one of the most enduring stories of our time.
"Trust me, though, the words were on their way, and when they arrived, Liesel would hold them in her hands like clouds, and she would wring them out like the rain." (page 80)
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is so creatively and beautifully written that for an instant, one forgets the weight of the subject matter and the darkness that surrounds and suffocates the characters. The story of Liesel and the community on Himmel Street is eloquently narrated by Death. The narration is captivating, and it is easy for the reader to sympathize with Death as a completely different perspective on storytelling unravels. While Death can be swift or lingering, in Zusak's crafting it is also compassionate and exhausted by the effects of war.
Set during World War II, a young girl, Liesel, finds herself living with Hans and Rosa Hubermann, struggling to adapt in a broken world and find purpose when surrounded by devastation, evil, and loss. Her prized possessions become her books and she quickly learns that through reading she can briefly escape her bitter reality and envision a better world. When the Hubermann's begin to hide a young Jewish man in their basement, Max Vandenburg, Liesel discovers the beauty in sharing words, books, and ideas. Their friendship allows them to begin to accept the loss they have each encountered and to embrace the power words possess when shared.
When Liesel takes her first book from the burial site of her brother, "The Grave Digger's Handbook," she has yet to learn to read. The book itself provides her with solace, a physical connector between the girl she is and her future self. Her bond with Hans Hubermann is solidified when he teaches her to read, giving her the gift of literacy which she unabashedly devours. It is when she begins to share this gift that Liesel finds her true strength. As residents gather together in a basement during air raids on Himmel Street, she reads aloud to them to quieten their fears and distract them from the horrors of war.
The Book Thief is a story of survival but it is through friendship, family, and faith that Zusak's characters find their voice and share it with the reader. It is a compelling story as Liesel's tragic journey comes to a heart-breaking end. Yet one can't help but think that the sun will rise on her future and she will continue to find comfort through words, leaving us all better for having read her story.
Click here to learn more about author Markus Zusak.
Who would we be without the gift of words? Have you read The Book Thief? Watched the film adaptation? I would love to read your thoughts.