As they began to unearth the emaciated girl from the rubbles and ruins that was left of Himmel Street tears started trickling down my cheeks. The emotion I felt that very moment was of desperation and sadness. I began wiping off my tears but my tear ducts were already swollen, and I continued sobbing.
How can an author be so cruel and good at the same time?
The rawness of my emotions were nothing short of what I’ve experienced with The Fault in Our Stars. The story has touched me in many ways and I’ll be forever grateful to Markus Zusak for creating a character so real it still haunts me right this very moment.
If you have read most of my reviews you may observe that I don’t give spoilers especially when the twists are unexpected and gripping. And so let me tell you that this review contains no spoilers. Only tear-stained pages, if I wrote this review on a sheet of paper.
The Book Thief tells the story of Liesel Meminger a German girl who became an orphan by losing her brother and eventually her mother during a train ride going to Molching, Germany, to her foster parents. Her brother was buried right after he died delaying their trip for a while. A short funeral rite took place for her brother and after the service Liesel noticed a book sitting on the melting snow. She grabbed the book entitled “The Grave Digger’s Handbook” and in a way stole it from an oblivious owner nearby. This started the many books that Liesel would soon steal, thus the title of the book.
The tragedy of losing her brother made it difficult for the girl to adapt easily with her new home and parents. She had a hard time adjusting with her new home (at Himmel Street) and also with the Hubermans, her foster parents, the warmhearted Hans and the strict yet loving Rosa.
After a night of vivid nightmare, she would soon find comfort in her foster father who goes every night to her room to join her during most of her sleepless nights. This habit soon becomes a teaching session with Han’s teaching Liesel how to read and right while playing with the accordion.
At first it was impossible for the girl to string out the letters and pronounce the words correctly. But eventually Liesel would soon learn from her beloved father. And she will acquire the knowledge and the desire to learn more with each passing day which leads her to her second stolen book then the next one, and so on.
The story is set in Nazi Germany during World War II. It is when every morning, the street are frequented by marching Jews heading to concentration camps. And by night time the sound of sirens filling the cold air, alerting everyone for possible bombing attacks and raids.
What makes the book special and haunting at the same time is Death’s involvement in the story. It’s not the popularity of death during that time but it’s because the story is narrated by Death himself. (In my opinion, Death is one of the best storytellers to date.)
"You see? Even death has a heart."
As Death became very busy with the increasing amount of work to be done. He sees Liesel during her book poaching sessions. And thought to himself when and where he will carry the little girl’s lifeless body in one of his tedious routines.
Liesel becomes closer to her foster parents and neighbors especially to that lemon-colored hair Rudy Steiner who she became good friends with. And every day she tirelessly aims to harness her skills as she learns how to write and read effortlessly. She would soon realize with a pang of grief how her desire to become better at what she does will spare her from Death’s uncanny timing.
Life in Himmel Street has been peaceful in a way. Although you can’t forget the fact of the raging war and the holocaust happening every day. The uncertainty that each day brings has its horrific effects on Liesel but her daily life with the Huberman’s and her neighbors especially Rudy numbs the unpredictable fact.
Until the appearance of a stranger at their door one night.
Who is this stranger her foster father has been waiting all along? Is he an ally or an enemy? And why after all this time she had never known the existence of this man?
The book is a not your typical all-nighter. It’s a bit long but not the boring type. The length of the story made the development of the characters flawless. And if you’re up for a fast paced story then I recommend you slow down on this one.
I’ve never encountered a story so powerful it left me thinking for hours. And whenever I remember the story of how The Book Thief stole my heart, I find myself shedding a tear or two again.
For you guys I’ll break one rule, the book will move you with tears in your eyes not because it’s a sad story or a happy one but because it will make you realize the importance of the things you’ve neglected and nearly forgotten all along. You will soon appreciate the life you have and the people you call your family and friends. Because in the end they will always be the ones left when the world you know shatters into pieces. They will always be there, always.