Three pages in the soft hairs on my upper legs stood up, I knew then that this was going to be a wonderful book. After last weeks heavy read (even without the controversy it stirred) I proclaimed aloud that I wanted something a little lighter as my next selection. There I go again making quasi-public assertions and feeling obliged to follow them lest I be a liar. Naturally a book about a foster child losing everything in Nazi Germany narrated by death was the perfect selection. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.
It promised to be light and it was- the colors at least. I read and reveled in the telling, I let my tears fall like the bombs and I felt the suffocation of the smoke of war. A particular war. One in which Nazi’s killed the last illusion of a humane humanity. A tiny story of the pain of those who tried to stand in its way without getting swept aside. The seeds of hope that good people will always be good people, even if they have to be so in secret.
With everything as it is in America of late stories about Nazi Germany seem more relevant than ever. Focusing on the past allows us to ask questions about our place in our society- we see the atrocities before us now, we saw how it turned out then- so many asked, as I did my whole life- how could they have just let it happen? How could those things just happen, and not be stopped. I don’t ask that question anymore. Not because I know the answer- I can never comprehend why humans do as they do. But the question is redundant. The answer is all around me. What we should and can do against a tide. What it means to be good. What responsibility do we have to get involved, what cost is worth it and what value. These are the questions that torment me now.
The last line of the book sums it all up- death, the narrator, speaks the words for me.
“I am haunted by humans.”