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Stones from the River From the highly acclaimed, award winning author of Floating in My Mother s Palm comes a stunning novel about ordinary people living in extraordinary timesTrudi Montag is a Zwerg a dwarf short, undesirable, different, the voice of anyone who has ever tried to fit in Eventually she learns that being different is a secret that all humans share from her mother who flees into madness, to her friend Georg whose parents pretend he s a girl, to the Jews Trudy harbors in her cellarUrsula Hegi brings us a timeless and unforgettable story in Trudi and a small town, weaving together a profound tapestry of emotional power, humanity, and truth It was like that with stories she could see beneath their surface, know the undercurrents, the whirlpools that could take you down, the hidden clusters of rocks Stories could blind you, rise around you in a myriad of colors Every time Trudi took a story and let it stream through her mind from beginning to end, it grew fuller, richer, feeding on her visions of those people the story belonged to until it lefts its bed like the river she loved And it was then that she d have to tell the story t It was like that with stories she could see beneath their surface, know the undercurrents, the whirlpools that could take you down, the hidden clusters of rocks Stories could blind you, rise around you in a myriad of colors Every time Trudi took a story and let it stream through her mind from beginning to end, it grew fuller, richer, feeding on her visions of those people the story belonged to until it lefts its bed like the river she loved And it was then that she d have to tell the story to someone.I ve read lots of brilliant books about WWII, but mostly they were plot driven and focused on the protagonists involved Stones from the River is different in that it describes the lives of many of the inhabitants of Burgdorf a small fictional German village from 1915 to 1951 It is beautifully written, but a book you need to immerse yourself in, definitely not a quick easy read I have a much better understanding of the years building up to WWII, how Hitler convinced so many people to support him, and for me most intriguing how people lived with themselves and each other after the war ended.I think two aspects of the author s writing that I admired most was firstly that she never dramatized anything In this it reminded me of The Diary of a Young Girl, humans can get used to almost anything Secondly, she introduces us to a a big cast of convincing and memorable characters they include the good, the bad and the ugly Each of these individual stories could have filled a book, but together they give us a much better idea and understanding of what happened.GR recommended this to me because I loved The Poisonwood Bible, and I have to agree that the feel is very similar This was an excellent book I was astounded by Hegi s ability to capture both the everyday life of Germans over the 20 year span leading up to the end of WWII and the experience of a woman with dwarfism Not once does she dramatize for the sake of Hollywood like entertainment Considering the standard treatments for both the topics of dwarfism and WWII, this is indeed a rare accomplishment I myself have dwarfism and am usually sick of the average portrayal of dwarfs in the media as either amusi This was an excellent book I was astounded by Hegi s ability to capture both the everyday life of Germans over the 20 year span leading up to the end of WWII and the experience of a woman with dwarfism Not once does she dramatize for the sake of Hollywood like entertainment Considering the standard treatments for both the topics of dwarfism and WWII, this is indeed a rare accomplishment I myself have dwarfism and am usually sick of the average portrayal of dwarfs in the media as either amusing, adorable, freakish, or pitiful, but Hegi s portrayal of Trudi Montag was amazingly normal and simultaneously resonating I am dying to know who in Hegi s life gave her the inspiration to portray the experience of a dwarf so accurately without treating her like a novelty Authors who don t belong to a minority take a risk when they try to tell their story for them, but in this case Hegi succeeded brilliantly Since I read the book, I have also coincidentally been living in Germany now for over three years My German friends and in laws appreciate the need for novels set in WWII since they of course recognize the importance of what one can learn, but they are also sick of the theme being treated as a novelty by any author or filmmaker trying to catch the audience s attention Hegi s non dramatic portrayal of the era is crucial in proving that WWII and the Holocaust originated in the midst of everyday people This signifies how it happened, how it should be resolved, and how future tragedies can be prevented I ve got a German friend who every time the war is mentioned suffers a rush of blood to her face and looks physically pained She continually makes me realise what a struggle it is for sensitive, generous spirited Germans to come to terms with what happened under the Nazis And this despite one of her great grandfathers taking part in the coup against Hitler and being hanged I mention this because the author of this novel is German and this novel, to some extent, is an attempt at atonement Unf I ve got a German friend who every time the war is mentioned suffers a rush of blood to her face and looks physically pained She continually makes me realise what a struggle it is for sensitive, generous spirited Germans to come to terms with what happened under the Nazis And this despite one of her great grandfathers taking part in the coup against Hitler and being hanged I mention this because the author of this novel is German and this novel, to some extent, is an attempt at atonement Unfortunately, not a very good one in my eyes It begins in 1915 in an invented German town The husband has been wounded in the war the wife is a deeply troubled soul and is horrified when she realises she has given birth to a dwarf child, Trudie For a while these three characters are compelling The unrelenting challenges to her self esteem Trudie faces are well done and we don t blame her for becoming somewhat mean spirited towards the residents of the town Later in the novel she will work in the library where she collects damning stories about her fellow inhabitants But we re told this never shown it and as a sub plot it never meshed into the narrative drive Unfortunately, this is anything but a tightly focused novel and the narrative soon begins wandering far and wide Innumerable other characters are introduced, none of them particularly memorable and the book begins to take the obese form of a soap opera It also wanders towards magical realism at times but then pulls back There are also dream sequences and the temptation to start skimming took hold before I reached the 100 page mark When the Nazis take power the book becomes interesting for troubling reasons It s essentially a rather benign depiction of everyday Germans under Nazi rule Kristallnacht is quickly brushed over in Hegi s invented German town To be honest, I felt there was a catastrophic failure of imagination on Hegi s part to evoke German life under Nazi rule I couldn t help drawing parallels with the infinitely superior Alone in Berlin, also written by a German but a German who didn t shy away from dramatizing the ensuing vile predatory behaviour when a state encourages its members to vent everything most base in their nature Even from the point of view of cranking up dramatic tension it s odd Hegi chose not to include a single hateful Nazi in her narrative The murder of the Jews is never mentioned in this novel They have disappeared as if they might simply be living someone else Towards the end of the novel Hegi even tells us a few Jews returned to her invented town The most passionate display of narrative outrage is at the bombing of Dresden It s as if she uses the dwarf theme to act as a kind of smokescreen to hide the outrages inflicted on the Jews The cruelties Trudie goes through are not peculiar to Nazi Germany they would occur in any society If this book were the only information we had about Nazi Germany, Nazi Germany wouldn t stand out as being significantlyevil than many other political regimes in world history But this isn t the reason I didn t like this novel It was the continual snowstorms of incidental detail, the repetitive blundering up blind alleys and the unrelenting introduction of gratuitous characters which prevented me from connecting with this book which is probably twice as long as it needs to be A buddy read with Elyse It took me about a month longer to read than it did Elyse I found this book at a library sale, and ended up buying it because I like the way the first page read Unlike many of the people who have reviewed this book I loved it from the beginning Trudi s insight into the world is amazing, and while very mature for her age, with a slight mental leap, completely believable Ultimately this is a book about differences When we begin the story, Trudi and her friend Georg are the outcasts, but as the plot progresses as the Nazi s gainpower and WWII I found this book at a library sale, and ended up buying it because I like the way the first page read Unlike many of the people who have reviewed this book I loved it from the beginning Trudi s insight into the world is amazing, and while very mature for her age, with a slight mental leap, completely believable Ultimately this is a book about differences When we begin the story, Trudi and her friend Georg are the outcasts, but as the plot progresses as the Nazi s gainpower and WWII begins who is and isn t an accepted part of the community continues to morph What becomes important is how people deal with their relative societal acceptance, as well as how they treat those who have been deemed outcasts With a satisfyingly ironic ending, it is immensely clear the author hopes this book will challenge our considerations of all those on the the periphery of society

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