Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever.
There are many more, but I've boiled it down to two thoughts:
At first, it was Marie-Laure's father that stood out to me. His love, his devotion, and his wisdom were challenging and convicting, as a father and as a son.
Unintentional perhaps, but this story awoke in me the Power of being a Dad, and that the plans I have for the future may never actually come; before I'm ready, my time my close forever. And what will I leave behind? Will my kids be able to survive? Thrive? Endure?
How will I love my children here. Now. So that if tomorrow never comes, I will be with them forever.
This storyline captured me. And I ached for him and hoped so deeply that he would make it out of prison and be able to come back home to his daughter.
On Single Stories:
About two-thirds of the way through, I began to struggle a bit with the Single Story concept, "How many times must we read stories about the Germans?" Then I had a great discussion, as always, with Alison Allen, a good friend and fellow English teacher. She reminded me of how important it is to never forget the atrocities that have happened, to never forget those who have suffered and died, and to never stop telling those stories - now matter how hard they are.
Tell of the Nazi concentration camps, the African American enslavements, the rape of the Native American people, and tell them over and over again. Lest we repeat them. Lest we forget.
Because, "Every hour, she thinks, someone for whom the war was memory falls out of the world" (pg 529).
Doerr, in his unique style of storytelling wrote a story that not only reminded us of The War, it also challenged the single story of the war. It told of Fredrick and his strength to stand up to the Reicht - even though it cost him his life - and he told of Werner, a young German, soon-to-be-Nazi boy, who, in all his complexity and ugliness and beauty, does not fit the Nazi mold. He actually reminded me of Germany’s leading fighter aces, Franz Stigler from A Higher Call, who had mercy on his enemies and saved the lives of several Americans by flying formation over Germany's Iron Curtain. It's a crazy story that highlights the complexity yet beauty of humanity. Just like Werner.
Near the end of the book, and the war, Doerr also adds in a small yet poignant scene of invading Russian soldiers who behave in the most atrocious of ways towards a small band of little girls, and I can only assume that Doerr intentionally adds this scene as a reminder that not all Germans were devils, and not all non-Germans were angels. It's a short yet powerful reminder that we are all capable of doing terrible things, not just our enemies.
A beautiful read. A powerful story. An acute reminder.