This book is a series of short stories told by Hannah Malter looking back at her life in post-war Germany in the small town of Bergdorf. In each chapter, she tells about a family member, friend, or neighbor while revealing pieces of herself. I don't normally care for short stories, but these all tie in together so well, giving the reader a glimpse of a town recovering from a horrendous war while dealing with their own lives in the 1950's. Hegi writes so beautifully and each character is given such depth and personality. But the main focus remains on the narrator. Hannah's reactions to the people she tells about are so spot-on for a thirteen year-old. Her mother is an unconventional artist while her father is a dentist who likes order in his life. The chapter that describes how they met and their marriage was one of my favorites. Here are a couple of quotes from the book:
The opening paragraph grabbed my attention right off: "When my mother entered her tenth month of carrying me, I stopped moving inside her womb. She awoke that morning to a sense of absolute silence that startled her out of the dreams filled with flute music and colorful birds, dreams she'd never had until she became pregnant with me, dreams she would have again when, two years later, she carried my brother."
As I face getting older myself, I guess I identified with this next quote: "Though they had wrinkles and gray hair, these women didn't think of themselves as old; it was an unspoken fact that each of them carried within, a fact that didn't need to be confirmed because there was always someone who could remember them as girls and recall a half-forgotten detail, someone who--beneath the fine web of lines--still saw the child's face."
CATCHING UP CHALLENGE