Death is our friend. Maybe friend is a little too strong a word, but as portrayed in The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, he is sympathetic to our suffering and was very taxed by the horrors of Nazi Germany during World War II. He tried to stay aloof, but some stories were just too beautiful for him to ignore. As he gently lifted the souls of the dead from their bodies, he usually tried to speed away without observing the circumstances. He concentrate on the colors of the sky. There was too much horror to contemplate, yet he found he had to stop whenever he was in the presence of a remarkable young girl, Liesl Meminger.
Death saw Liesl steal her first book, The Grave Digger's Handbook, which had been dropped in the snow close to her brother's grave. Though a book with no plot, it was all the girl going into foster care had to remember her brother. With the help of her foster father Hans Hubermann, she learned to read from that book. It also gave her a thirst for more books, which were hard to find in the poor suburbs of Munich. With the help of her close friend Rudy Steiner, the boy who worshiped Olympic star Jesse Owens, she stole several more, as well as apples, bread, and cookies. They stole first for themselves but then also for their families, and Liesl stole for Max Vandenburg, the artistic Jew hidden in the basement.
Death, Liesl, Hans, his wife Rosa, Max, and Rudy are all great characters who draw readers into this superb story about the spirit to survive in terrible times. While marketed for teen readers, The Book Thief is being chosen and enjoyed by many adult book clubs. We can't keep copies on the shelves at my library. I was spellbound by the audiobook read by Allan Corduner.
Zusak, Marcus. The Book Thief. Knopf, 2005. ISBN 9780375842207.
Random House Audi0, 2006. 11 compact discs. ISBN 0739337270