So, I’ll admit it. Sometimes I let Amazon tell me what to read. I browse through the “Customers Who Bought Product A Also Bought Product B Section,” and I make a list to check out at the library because I have no money. I kept seeing The Book Thiefpop up over and over on my list. Then, I saw my friend Andy posted it as a 5 star book on Goodreads – which is a no brainer right there (I always like the books he likes). Then, my friend Lauren read it and reviewed it, so I decided I really needed to check out this book.
The Book Thief traces the life of Liesel Meminger, a small girl, who lives in a village outside of Munich with her foster family during World War II. Liesel’s story shows the lives of every day citizens caught in the middle of Hitler’s fight. Liesel’s fight, however, is a fight for words and with words. Finding herself fascinated with books, she steals them to take home to her Papa, who teaches her to read. We follow Liesel’s adventures in book thievery through the eyes of an unlikely narrator.
I checked this novel out twice at the library, having the hardest time getting into the rhythm of the narrator. The narrator is Death, which explains why I was uncomfortable with him. I mean, he’s Death, not exactly a cheerful fellow. I kept trucking along with the book, and suddenly, I fell in love with it.
First, I fell in love with Hans Hubermann, Liesel’s accordion-playing foster father, who loved her and slept in a chair beside her while she had nightmares. He loved her even when she wet the bed or screamed every night. He fiercely loved his family and humanity, even when it was hard. I fell in love with Rudy, Liesel’s feisty best friend who wanted to be Jessie Owens. Rudy and Liesel shared insults and teased like most pre-pubescent boy/girl friendships, but Rudy loved Liesel – truly loved her. I fell in love with Liesel’s friend, Max, the boxer who made books and wrote stories while he concealed himself in the basement. I fell in love with Liesel, finally. She experienced so much pain and heartache in her little life, yet she also knew real love and real life. She fought for her friends, and she knew truth.
After finishing this book, I curled up in a ball and wept, not only because the book was sad. It was more than that.
The Book Thief is enduring and true and pure. It’s beautiful and miserable. The prose is lyrical and rich. The characters deep and engaging. Even the narrator – Death – is not as objective as he would like to be. Ultimately, The Book Thief is this: Finding family. Reaching out. Loving when it’s hard.
After reading The Book Thief, I headed back to the library a couple of weeks later and started perusing the aisles. Normally, I have a list of books I want, or if I’m really on my game, I put the books I want to check out on hold. Then, I don’t have to try and find books while my kids are with me (and they are always with me). Anyway, I started at the end of the fiction section and caught a glimpse of this:
I grabbed it on a whim, and I read it over the weekend, and I came to this conclusion:
I trust Markus Zusak.
I no longer need to know the premise of the book or read the book jacket to find out what critics think. Nope. After reading two of his novels, I know I can pick up anything he has written and know I will love it.
I am the Messenger follows the life of Ed Kennedy, a nineteen-year-old cab driver who doesn’t have much going for him in life. He has a run-down apartment, some close friends who come over to play cards, a girl named Audrey whom he desperately wants to love, and a smelly, old dog named The Doorman. One day, after witnessing a bungled bank robbery and assisting in the robber’s capture, Ed gets a mysterious message in the mail, which leads him on a path of new discoveries, forcing him to venture out of the predictabilities of his very ordinary life.
Zusak’s words flow like poetry in a sea of prose. He captures the essence of character, almost effortlessly it seems, which I know just means he works incredibly hard at his writing. Zusak knows relationships and how they work. He’s funny. He’s weird. Plus, he’s really good at characterizing a dog and a dog’s relationship with its owner (you know dogs talk back to you, right?)
I trust him.