YMCA Book Club Reads “The Book Thief”

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Death is the narrator of “The Book Thief,” a novel written by Markus Zusak and featured at November’s Summit Family YMCA Book Club.

Written for sophisticated teens and adults, it is set during World War II in Germany. The Publisher’ Summary states, “It’s just a small story really, about, among other things, a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter and quite a lot of thievery…. It is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratched out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist: books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids – as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau.”

In leading the discussion at the Y meeting, staffer Susan Waryold asked, “What are Death’s feelings for each victim? Marilu Poole said, “He likes the children and carries them in his arms, while others might be dripping from his fingers.”

Waryold responded with, “He talked about how tired he was during the war, holding 4,000 soldiers in his arms.” Lila Reeves had researched the numbers and found that “Over 427,000 were killed in Hamburg when a 16 foot tornado of fire swept through. It was being bombed because there was an armaments factory there.”

Arlene Carleo, a school teacher for 25 years in New York, commented, “I was disappointed in the book. Sentences were three words long. It wasn’t literary enough for me. I didn’t feel it was well-written.”

Some thought the book, laced with profanity, to be “heavy.” Barbara Jean Omerod commented, “This was supposed to be for young readers? I’m shocked this writer got the awards he did. What did I miss?”

Oppositely, Angela Benjamin stated, “I read this book about five years ago with my daughter. I liked it better the second time and realized the richness of the writing.”

Poole added, “I thought it would be a re-do of ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ and was glad that it wasn’t.”

“I loved the book,” said June Weinstock. “I couldn’t put it down. It gave me a lot of feelings and insights. I lost family during that war. It invoked a lot of feelings because I lived through grandparents who fled Europe.

Reeves closed the meeting with an anecdote that came from her reading the book. “I thought the most interesting part of the book was character development. I was eager to learn about them and I felt compassion in my heart when I read what they were going through. They represented humanity during the Nazi regime.

“When I went to New York City over Thanksgiving, I saw lots of different people: some with furs, some like me. I was walking down the streets – walk, walk, walk, walk – and every night I enjoyed my food because I’d walked all day long. We were walking after the parade and there was a lady in a wheelchair on the side of the street. She wasn’t old, but she didn’t have many teeth left. I reached deep into my pocketbook and came up with a dollar. She was tickled to death to get something besides a quarter. It made me feel like I was wealthy. She said, ‘God bless you and have a happy Thanksgiving.’ And it did make my Thanksgiving happier.”

The Summit Y is located on Georgia Highway 34 and serves Fayette and Coweta counties.