The Book Thief  by Markus Zusak

Submitted by Jeffrey Ditchek

Certain sentences stopped me in my tracks.

This is the story of a young girl who is left with a family due to her parents being persecuted as possible communists in Germany during early WWII. The narrator is Death.  Not the dramatic evil kind but a soul that is simply doing its job.  The girl, Leisel Memenger, is smart and will use anything at her disposal to read books which at first she had to appropriate from left over book burnings and eventually by “kindly” theft. (The Germans love to burn things”)

However never within the story would you consider her a thief.

The author through the death character gets points across in a remarkable way.

Death describes itself as –

“I am all bluster,  I am not violent, I am not
malicious, I am a result”.

A very pragmatic character, Death reclaims souls as death describes itself.  Fortunately Death does not reclaim all the souls in this great, moving, and extraordinarily well-told story.  The novel ends with “A LAST NOTE FROM YOUR NARRATOR” which I simply will not mention here as it is as remarkable about the human condition as it is surprising.  It made me put down the book and hold back tears.~

ITALIAN SHOES by Henning Mankell

Submitted by Judy Garrison

Italian Shoes is a 2006 novel by Swedish crime writer Henning Mankell. However, it is not about crime. It is a penetrating look, told in the first person, into the mind and frozen heart of Fredrik Welin. He lives by himself, with his aging pets, on a tiny island surrounded by ice in the winter. He was driven to this isolation 12 years earlier after a terrible mistake he made as a surgeon. Now an unexpected arrival of an old woman on a walker precipitates events that immerse him once again into the human condition. On the ensuing eccentric journey that she spurs, he is changed by his encounters with 4 very different women. (No romance.) I found myself strangely moved and caring intensely about this flawed man, a person quite unlike myself. The writing is infused with a sense of place and weather.~