Of book thieves and word shakers.

book-thief2“I wanted to tell the book thief many things, about beauty and brutality. But what could I tell her about those thing that she didn’t already know? I wanted to explain that I am constantly overestimating and underestimating the human race–that rarely do I ever simply estimate it. I wanted to ask her how the same thing could be so ugly and so glorious, and its words and stories so damning and brilliant.”

* * *

I’ve been sick the last few days, confined to my bedroom and coughing incessantly. In between long, Benadryl-induced comas and cups of tea to soothe my aching throat, I’ve discovered that one good thing about being forced to drop out of life for a few days is that I’ve found plenty of time to read. And since I was sick, I decided that I shouldn’t force myself to read anything terribly “important” (i.e., my Ed. Psych. book or Gertrude Stein for my lit. class). So I very deliberately let myself get absorbed in The Book Thief, and I’m so very glad.

The book is astonishing. It’s about a young German girl named Liesel, and the narrative takes place over the course of about six years during World War II. The point-of-view, however, is the most spectacular part about this book–it’s told from Death’s perspective. Every description, every musing, all of it, is told by Death. We see Liesel’s life through his eyes, as he moves in and around her life. Since it’s during the war, he’s really very busy, but his encounters with Liesel cause him to stop and take notice of her life.

Death’s view of humanity is startling. As I was reading, some passages caused me to stop and stare at the pages, thinking, “Oh, my gosh, he’s right. We are like that.” Other moments, the descriptions of Liesel and her love for those in her life–her foster parents; her best friend, Rudy; and Max, the young Jewish man her family hid in the basement–brought tears to my eyes.

This book is one that anyone who appreciates beauty, truth, and love should read. It’s made the short list of my absolute favorites–Books that Rocked My World. It’s brilliant and beautiful and moving and astounding–all the things that any great book should be.