Written by Markus Zusak, this novel was published in 2006, which makes me a little late for the party. I only read it because I was told it’s a “crossover” book. Meaning, it appeals to children and adults alike. Like a good little writer, I dutifully did my homework. I reserved it from the library and brought it home with a stack of other “must reads”. It sat on the shelf for two weeks, patiently waiting its turn.
Had I known then what I know now, I would have read it first.
It’s the story of a young girl named Liesel Meminger who moves in with a foster family in Munich. She witnesses first hand the horrors of Hitler’s war. It’s a story of the power of words, which can be used for the evil purposes of Nazi propaganda, or provide the blessed gift of escape.
I’ve always been interested in the stories surrounding World War II. This is the first book that truly transplanted me to that time. I felt the hunger pangs, smelled the smoke and decay, looked into eyes of despair, and heard the air raid sirens.
Narrated by Death, this book is surprisingly humorous and heartbreaking at the same time. I would not recommend it for children under the age of 16, however, given the graphic nature of the subject matter and language. (In addition to that, I want to add a note of warning here that there is a lot of misuse of the name of God.)
In the end, I understood that dark time in history in a way I never had before. I let it in and it broke my heart. I cried, hard, for several minutes when I was done. And that was the right thing to do after what I saw in the pages of this book. I was mourning the dead.
I highly recommend this beautiful, painful and touching novel by Markus Zusak.