Last night I finished what could be my favorite book if not for Andre Aciman’s heart wrenching “Call me by your name” . The Book Thief stole a couple of days of my life but I can’t even say I would ever regret it. Narrated by Death, literally, it focuses on the life of Liesel Memimger a young German girl who is adopted by a sympathetic family in the outskirts of Munich at the start of Hitler’s power. She develops a fascination with words and books at a time when they would be used to place fear and hate in the German nation. Before she can even read she picks up a book from the snow at the funeral of her younger brother who did not survive the trip to her new home. At first hesitant of her new family she learns to accept them. Her loving accordion playing foster-father Hans teaches her how to read after discovering the stolen book and her stern mother Rosa keeps her grounded and well-behaved. Liesel, at first troubled by her scholastic shortcomings, inevitably begins a life of thievery not just for books but for the little bits of happiness that life stows away hidden during the war. Though the Book Thief’s comings and goings, the lives of other characters provide the backdrop for the moments that will impact in her life.
Han’s a WWI veteran owes his life to a Jew and makes a promise. A promise that reaches fruition when Max, the young Jewish son of Han’s savior arrives at his door asking them to risk all.
Max a young fist-fighter living freely, finds himself in peril after the German persecution. Regrettably, he leaves his family and goes into hiding and develops a bond with the” Book Thief” that keeps him through the darkest days.
Rudy, a blond hair blue-eyed boy who idolizes the olympic track winner Jesse James, befriends Liesel but not for free. At first rivals at the local Himmel Street soccer games he goes out of his way to outdo her. He develops a strong bond with Liesel and never fails to find ways to ask her for a kiss. His carefree disposition, wholeheartedness, and the place he holds as Liesel’s accomplice in crime inevitably wins me over and he is my favorite character in the book.
Death , inevitably, also plays a role. What we might view as a hateful and unregretful is the opposite. Death, it seems, is tired and weary of all the despair and disaster. He views each death in colors and keeps himself withdrawn so as to abstain from the pain heartbreak of those left behind, for he knows if he does he will not be able to cope. Death makes the ultimate exception with Liesel. Through his multiple encounters with the Book Thief, Death finds himself not only following her life but succumbing to the regret and loss of those left behind.