Les Patterson’s Monday Morning Boost: The Book Thief – “Words are life”

Liesel Meminger held the book tight to her bosom. She was in a strange place with a new mama and papa. Her mother was gone, taken by Hitler. Her brother was gone too, buried in a shallow grave somewhere along the snowy tracks in Germany. As Liesel lay in her new bed, her new papa asked about that which she clutched so tightly. “Your first book! Are you sure this is yours?” Young Liesel simply replied, “It wasn’t always mine.”

It wasn’t always mine.

Such is the truth behind most all words that we now claim as our own… they weren’t always ours. Liesel, the protagonist in “The Book Thief,” discovered this truth as she sought out words in first book she took, “The Grave Diggers Handbook.” With her new father, Liesel journeyed through the morbid reading of how to properly bury the dead, sounding out and writing down new words on makeshift chalkboards hung on the basement walls. Words once devoid of meaning became hers and came to life.

Max Vandenburg, Liesel’s new friend and a Jew hiding in her basement, helped her discern the power of words. Presenting her a copy of Mein Kampf, its pages painted white, Max encourages her to write her own words. “Write,” he tells her. “In my religion we’re taught that every living thing, every leaf, every bird, is only alive because it contains the secret word for life. That’s the only difference between us and a lump of clay. A word. Words are life, Liesel.

Words are life.

Max knew it, and Liesel discovered it, once again, when Max had to go. “I’m not lost to you, Liesel. You’ll always be able to find me in your words. That’s where I’ll live on.”

When Death, he whose haunting voice narrates the story of The Book Thief, finally comes for Liesel, he takes “selfish pleasure in the knowledge that she had lived her ninety years so wisely. By then her stories had touched many souls, some of whom I came to know in passing. Max, whose friendship lasted almost as long as Liesel. Almost. In her final thoughts, she saw the long list of lives that merged with hers. Her three children, her grandchildren, her husband. Among them, lit like lanterns, were Hans and Rosa, her brother, and the boy whose hair remained the color of lemons forever.”

Stories touch souls.

Liesel’s story touched my soul, touched it deeply. Liesel reminded me “of our humanity” and “how the sun felt on [my] skin and the air felt like to breathe, and that reminded [me] that [I] was still alive.” I share my own words in the slight hope of doing the same.

Have a great Monday!

Les Patterson

p.s. Take 15 minutes today enjoy reading more quotes from The Book Thief and then watch the movie trailer.

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