derivative of Rudolph: a famous wolf
I’ve read a lot of books in my life. A few because I was required to read them, many more because I wanted to. It’s hard to choose a favorite book of all time, in part because I continue to read. How can I say this or that book is my favorite when I’m constantly adding new data to the pool? But if I am honest with myself, I do have a favorite book. I came to realize that I could admit this book was my favorite after mentioning it to two people recently and having them say, "I didn't just like it. It's the best book I've ever read."
I'm not jumping on a best book bandwagon here. I can tell it’s my favorite because I’ve read it three times (the only book I have ever read that many times), have suggested it to countless people and my eyes tear up just thinking about it. If you haven’t read The Book Thief, I think you should.
There are many, many things I love about this book, but foremost are the characters that populate its pages. They live and breathe on the page and in my mind. So in an effort to pay homage to the beauty that is The Book Thief, I’d like to use this post (and possibly a few subsequent ones) to introduce you to these characters.
The second time I read The Book Thief, I told my husband, “It’s a good thing Rudy Steiner is fictional because if he wasn’t, I might have to marry him.” Rudy is easy to fall in love with. He’s a German teenager who wants nothing so much as to be Jesse Owens. He’s a foul mouthed boy who stands up for his friends when it costs him everything. He has a kind heart and hair the color of lemons.
Here is what I love about Rudy most of all: he falls in love with Liesel, the titular Book Thief, the moment he meets her. But he is content to be her friend. Even at the young age of twelve, Liesel’s had a rough life. She’s ended up on Himmel Street with her foster parents Max and Rosa after a tortuous train ride that left her more alone than a person has a right to be. So when Rudy falls in love with Liesel, she can’t love him back. She’s far too broken for that. Love requires vulnerability and Liesel is fresh out of that.
Rudy, wise beyond his years or just the kind of boy so good at heart that we only find them in novels, knows this about Liesel. So he plays soccer with her. He covers for her at school, even if it means taking a lashing from a nun. He walks with her, talks with her, lives life with her. He accepts what she can offer him, even if it’s not what he wants most: her heart. That will, of course, come to him in due time.
As I write this, I am sitting on the bathroom floor of a hotel room – victim of insomnia and an unhealthy love of books in general and The Book Thief in particular. There are tears streaking down my face as I think about Rudy. If that’s not enough to convince you to read The Book Thief, check back in a few days and I’ll introduce you to another character who might be more to your liking. There are plenty of good ones to choose from.