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So I chose this weeks read to cross off “a book set during war time” from my reading challenge. I remembered the title as one I had read back in middle school but couldn’t remember much, if anything, about the story. I don’t think I will ever forget it after reading it once more as an adult. Such a powerful read.
Annemarie is just a young girl living in Denmark at the beginning of Nazi occupation during World War II. Armed soldiers on every street corner, food rations, and limited electricity are the new norm; but despite all this, she still feels the relative safety only the naivete of youth brings. Only when the town is warned by the local rabbi that a raid on the Jewish people is imminent do things take on a gravely dangerous feel. Annemaries best friend, Ellen is Jewish. In a quick flurry of activity, her family sets out on a dangerous mission to save their beloved friends and neighbors.
It’s no wonder this novel is highly acclaimed and heavily honored with awards, it was absolutely heartbreakingly beautiful. I can honestly say I wept while reading this book; the sheer bravery and courage of not only Annemaries family, but the people of Denmark to protect their Jewish friends and neighbors was breathtaking. I think Lowery perfecting sums up how people (myself anyway) relate to this book with this quote:
“They want to be honorable people. They want to do the right thing. And they are beginning to realize that the world they live in is a place where the right thing is often hard, sometimes dangerous, and frequently unpopular”
I found myself thinking about what I would do in little Annemaries shoes, in her mother and father, and Uncle Henricks shoes. Would I have been so brave? Would I have done the dangerous but courageous thing and helped those I could, escape to freedom? I’d like to think that I would have; that I would have gone to any lengths to save not just my friends but all those who needed saving.
In today’s particularly explosive political climate, books like these remain important to challenge the ways in which we think, and the truths that we hold dear. Replace “Jewish” for any number of disenfranchised groups; African American, undocumented immigrants, Dreamers, LGBT, Muslim. What are you doing to actively protect these groups? Do you stand up to injustices or are you too afraid? Or worse yet, do you not see a problem to begin with?
If you haven’t yet, do yourself and favor and pick this one up to read. Even if, like me, you had read it in your youth I guarantee you will find new meaning and more thought provoking questions that will leave you thinking about the book long after you finish its pages.
Until next week…