In Death's Words

What does a person hope to gain when they open a book? Do they want to be inspired, saddened or do they simply wish to find comfort in the words that make books an unforgotten treasure? I have read many books where all I think about while reading is, when can I finally put this book down? Sometimes I am lucky though; hours go by while I’m curled up in my favorite chair or on the hammock enchanted by the words that seem to flow effortlessly off the page and into my mind. And no book has ever given me this feeling more than The Book Thief by: Markus Zusack.

Picking up this book I thought that this would be another boring journey through the character’s shallow problems. I could not have been more wrong. Reading those first few pages I realized that not only is this book narrated by death; it is also following the story of a young girl, Liesel, who is ripped from her mother and with her brother is sent to live with a foster couple. Sadly her brother dies and she is forced to carry on without him and try to stay strong. All while I’m reading this, thoughts bounce around in my head, I have so many questions. But all these questions need to be pushed aside because I’m always starving for the next word, the next sentence which brings me deeper and deeper into Liesel’s tale that is so craftily spun by death.

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Not far into the book I discovered another fact about Liesel and her life. She is German and since I am 100% German as well I am able to read and understand almost all of the words written in German. This knowledge gave me a better understanding of the book than most other people. I couldn’t stop reading; connections flowed freely out of me as I continued. As Liesel’s world was being torn apart I could feel her pain. All that gave her comforts were her books and that is what the Nazis were trying to take away from everyone.

She would read and everything seemed to melt away, she was in her own little world, as was I when I read about hers. Everything seemed to get better, Liesel had gone through so much and now there was going to be a happy ending I just knew it. This couldn’t have been any farther away from the truth. As I read the last chapters I let the tears fall freely. Her family and all she knew were blown to bits.

She was the only one alive. I was now at the last chapter. All I could think of as I read the last pages was how she had been hurt. Her family was gone; friends gone as well. But the last few sentences stopped me in my tracks.

What was this? Max, the Jew whom Liesel’s family had saved found her. Finally someone she knew and loved with all her little girl’s heart. She had been found. As my tears of happiness and utmost sadness dried on the page, I read the whole ending again. What is this? I didn’t understand and when I almost started reading the ending for a third time it hit me.

A horrible cruel thing which was started by a very cruel man killed thousands of innocent people and when all hope seemed to have been lost, someone finds it like Liesel did when Max found her. She is healing from those traumatic days. This is what I found most inspiring. Being German I sometimes feel guilt over what a man from my country did to so many other people. I know I didn’t personally do anything but I do sometimes feel a responsibility for it. But I have found healing, talking to others about it and maybe even one day talk to one of the survivors of this horrific event.

I will eventually heal and not let something that someone else did many years ago affect what I do today.