You ever sit back and wonder how the holocaust could have happened? Have you ever wondered how Germans could sit by and let Hitler do what he did? The Book Thief shows us the side of the story we don’t often hear. Liesel Meminger, a young German girl, finds herself in foster care at the beginning of World War II. Liesel is drawn to books after she allows herself to steal the “Gravedigger’s Handbook.” She is taught to read in the basement of her foster home by her “papa” Hans Huberman and she can’t get enough of books from then on out. Liesel’s life would be quite ordinary had she not been in Germany during World War II, but the fact is that she found herself smack dab in the middle of all of it and continued to make the most out of it as children often do. Liesle has friends, does crazy things, swears at her friends (especially her best friend Rudy), and steals what she can’t buy. Liesel is a kid growing up in the face of a bleak world and she is not spared from the darkness of those days in Europe. The story is told from the perspective of Death (yes, Death is the actual narrator of the story). So if you expect a happy ending, you probably shouldn’t read a book that is being told to you by Death itself.
Despite its dark beginnings, this book gives you many opportunities to smile. What an amazing frickin’ book. The story makes you aware of the humanness of war, the darkness of war, the unfairness of it all, and the incredible strength of people that is only seen during times of war. You are reminded that there are people with kids, spouses, grandparents, friends, co-workers, siblings, and other relations that are on both sides of the war. You are reminded that many people affected by war are really just trying to live their lives and yet are considered the enemy by where they live. I loved these characters. I loved the German swearwords, not for the swearing but for the realness that it brought the characters. Rudy and Liesel’s adventures together made me laugh and reminded me of my days as a kid (minus the stealing of course). I was reminded that sometimes terrible things happen because sometimes they just do, just like good things. Sometimes in the worst of moments people are just trying to help everyone survive. Liesle and her family reminded me that we are all capable of extremes, not because we are evil or good, but because we are human. This is a book everyone should read at some point in their lives. It’s not action packed, it’s dark, but it’s real. This book definitely deserves the Grand Poobah.