I was curled up on a hard wooden bench at Cebu airport, in the Philippines, waiting for the first of many flights that would take me back to Baltimore. I was crying – sobbing really, if you must know. Filipino airport staff were fluttering around me, giving me timid pats on the shoulder, trying to make sure I was okay. I wasn’t.
I was reading The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, a book I’d been salivating to read for months. Years, actually – I’d just never gotten around to buying it. I’d been hooked from the beginning, which reads “First the colors. Then the humans. That’s usually how I see things. Or at least, how I try. HERE IS A SMALL FACT: You are going to die.” The book is narrated by Death, who does so in an absorbing and extraordinary way.
The Book Thief is staggering. It’s creative and ambitious, written beautifully with such carefully drawn characters you see them in front of you. It’s about love. About family and friendship. About books, and words, and their power to hurt or soothe. All are carefully entwined in Nazi Germany, through the eyes of 10 year old Liesel Meminger.
The Book Thief is hopeful and tragic, an amazing, consuming novel. It’s stunning. I fell in love with this book, and it broke my heart. Hence me, in an airport in the Philippines, crying on a wooden bench.
I’ve read this book many times over, and it never fails to affect me the same way as it did the first. There are many books, and many stories, and many words – but this one, The Book Thief, contains a story you will never forget.