Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Book of Everything

I read The Book of Everything (American edition, 2006, Arthur A. Levine Books) twice because I found it so moving. Written by Dutch author Guus Kuijer, it takes place in Amsterdam of 1951, when the Netherlands are still reeling from the effects of the Nazi occupation of their country. The story of nine-year-old Thomas revolves around his anguish over his father hitting his mother (and himself.) After one such episode we feel Thomas’s distress. “God was silent in every language. The angels tried to dry their tears, but their handkerchiefs were so soaked through that it started raining even in the deserts.”

But what can a young boy do to stop the abuse of his controlling, rigidly religious father? Fortunately some intriguing characters help him along the way, including his neighbor, his aunt, his sister and his mother. The story unfolds almost without noticing, but every detail leads to the powerfully dramatic climax.

A bleak subject, true, but somehow the reader reaches the last page experiencing the goodness of humanity mixed in with its faults. The writing is lyrical, funny at times, and a remarkable journey through the mind of a nine-year-old as he revises the religious ideas his father wishes to instill. I recommend this book to adults, as well as children.

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