Stones from the River

( 71 )

Overview

From the acclaimed author of Floating in My Mother’s Palm and Children and Fire, a stunning story about ordinary people living in extraordinary times—“epic, daring, magnificent, the product of a defining and mesmerizing vision” (Los Angeles Times).

Trudi 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 ...

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Overview

From the acclaimed author of Floating in My Mother’s Palm and Children and Fire, a stunning story about ordinary people living in extraordinary times—“epic, daring, magnificent, the product of a defining and mesmerizing vision” (Los Angeles Times).

Trudi 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 Trudi harbors in her cellar.

Ursula 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.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Ursula Hegi draws parallels between groups of outsiders in this dramatic audiobook set in Germany. Trudi Montag, the town librarian, feels dissociated from society because she is a dwarf. In her role as librarian, Trudi meticulously archives secrets, stories, and history, all of which become her source of power when the townspeople allow Jews to be mistreated during World War II.
From the Publisher
Michael Dorris Los Angeles Times What a novel is supposed to be: epic, daring, magnificent, the product of a definging and mesmerizing vision...It is in a word, remarkable.

Suzanne Ruta The New York Times Book Review Rich and lively...This moving, elegiac novel commands our compassion and respect for the wisdom and courage to be found in unlikely places, in unlikely times.

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A dwarf woman struggles to find acceptance in her small German town in this novel spanning both world wars.
Library Journal
At the beginning of World War I, Trudi Montag, a dwarf, is born to an unstable mother and a gentle father in a small Rheinish town. Through the Weimar Republic and the Third Reich into the era following World War II she first struggles with--and later draws strength and wisdom from--her inability to fit into a conformist and repressive society. As the town's librarian and historian, Trudi keeps track of many secrets, revealing the universality of her experience. While Hegi's (Floating in My Mother's Palm , LJ 5/15/90) treatment of history and politics is engaging, her novel's appeal lies in the humanity of its characters. Particularly strong is her portrayal of, and insight into, the community of women and children as they react to changing conditions in the town. A sensitive and rewarding book.-- Michael T. O'Pecko, Towson State Univ., Md.
Library Journal
Trudi Montag, a dwarf born in Germany during World War I, narrates her life story from her earliest memories through post-World War II. Being different sometimes renders Trudi almost invisible to those around her, allowing her to eavesdrop on the daily dramas of her neighbors' adultery, cowardice, heroism, insanity, and Jewish persecution. Hegi draws on her own youth in small-town Germany (she emigrated to the United States at age 18) to establish an authentic setting, painting the emergence of Nazi Germany on an intimate canvas of a small town and its humanly flawed population. Berlin-born reader Kim Edwards-Fukei augments the authenticity of place with her German accent and pronunciation, which, coupled with more than a sprinkling of German words, requires the listener's full concentration. With the 528-page tome converted into 24 hours of listening, a longer loan period may be warranted. An Oprah Book Club selection and one of four PEN/Faulkner 1995 runners up, this is recommended for all fiction collections. Judith Robinson, Univ. at Buffalo, NY Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780684844770
  • Publisher: Touchstone
  • Publication date: 3/25/1997
  • Series: Oprah's Book Club Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 528
  • Sales rank: 149,183
  • Lexile: 1140L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Ursula  Hegi

Ursula Hegi is the author of The Worst Thing I've Done, Sacred Time, Hotel of the Saints, The Vision of Emma Blau, Tearing the Silence, Salt Dancers, Stones from the River, Floating in My Mother's Palm, Unearned Pleasures and Other Stories, Intrusions, and Trudi & Pia. She teaches writing at Stonybrook's Southhampton Campus and she is the recipient of more than thirty grants and awards.

Biography

Multiple award winner Ursula Hegi moved from West Germany to the U.S. in 1964. She has lived on both coasts, in the states of Washington and New York.

Hegi's first two books had American settings; but when she was in her '40s, she began investigating her cultural heritage in stories about life in Germany. Her critically acclaimed 1994 novel Stones from the River gathered further momentum when it was selected in 1999 as an Oprah's Book Club pick.

Among numerous honors and awards, Hegi has received an NEA Fellowship, several PEN Syndicated Fiction Awards, and a book award from the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association (PNBA) in 1991 for Floating in My Mother's Palm. She has taught creative writing and has written many reviews for acclaimed publications like The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and The Washington Post.

Good To Know

Hegi immigrated to the U.S. in 1964, at the age of 18.

After it was rejected by several publishers, Hegi destroyed the manuscript of her first novel. She explains herself in this way:

"[The novel] was called Judged, and I wrote it between 1970 and 1972. When Intrusions -- my first novel brought into print -- was accepted for publication, I was a graduate student at the University of New Hampshire, and one of the other students said it would be interesting to write a thesis on my two unpublished novels. By then I knew that I didn't want to publish Judged. It just wasn't very good, and I knew I didn't want to revise it. But I had learned a lot from writing it -- especially how not to write a novel. I went home, made paper airplanes with my children from the manuscript, and landed them in the wood stove.

My second unpublished manuscript, written in the mid-1970s, was The Woman Who Would Not Speak. It was set in Germany, and I used quite a bit of the material, in very different form, for two later novels, Floating in My Mother's Palm and Stones in the River. I always felt that I wanted go further with those characters. When I began Floating, it helped a lot to have descriptions that I'd written not too long after leaving Germany. Floating contains one chapter, called "The Woman Who Would Not Speak," which gives you an idea of the storyline and characters in the book. I revise my work between 50 and 100 times, going deeper each time. But part of revision is also knowing what to abandon."

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    1. Hometown:
      Upstate New York
    1. Date of Birth:
      1946
    2. Place of Birth:
      Germany
    1. Education:
      B.A., M.A., University of New Hampshire

Read an Excerpt

Sometimes Trudi and Eva played with Seehund by the brook in back of the pay-library, but he'd run from them, yelping, if they'd splash him with water. And whenever they dragged him into the brook to teach him how to swim, he escaped as soon as they let go of his collar. Soon he learned to stay at a safe distance from Trudi if she went near water.

"You should have named him something else," Eva said one fall afternoon after they'd given up on trying to submerge Seehund. "A seal is supposed to love water."

"We'll call him Earth Snail," Trudi suggested.

Eva laughed. "Turtle Breath."

Both arms stretched wide, Trudi whirled around. "Turtle Breath," she chanted. "Earth Snail...." Her right foot banged into the end of the wooden planks that spanned the narrow arm of the brook soon after it forked. She cried out.

"Pinch your earlobe," Eva yelled.

Clutching her toe in one hand, Trudi hopped back and forth on the other foot.

"Just try it," Eva ordered. "It stops the pain."

When Trudi pinched her earlobe, it stung. Miraculously, her toe stopped hurting. "How come it works?" She plopped down on the grass next to Eva.

"It just does. I'll show you something else." Eva brought her face up against Trudi's. Her breath smelled of raspberry pudding as she opened her lips — so wide that Trudi could see deep inside her mouth. Its roof was curved like the ceiling in St. Martin's Church, and the dark gap in back was separated by a pink icicle. When Eva's tongue stretched up, it hid the gap but exposed bluish veins beneath her tongue and a taut membrane that connected it to the bottom of her mouth. "Try it." Eva's voice was muffled. The tip of her tongue danced against the roof of her mouth. "Move it so it tickles."

Trudi tried. "It feels silly."

Eva closed her mouth but right away yawned as if she needed to move her lips. "Remember to do this if you're ever hiding and have to sneeze and don't dare to because someone may capture you."

"Who would capture me?"

"You never know. It's an old Indian trick. Indians do it when they don't want their enemies to find them."

"How do you know?"

"My father. He read it in a book from your library. I know all kinds of other remedies."

"Can any of them — " Trudi felt her hands go sweaty. That morning, when she'd told Sister Mathilde she wanted to become a teacher, the sister had said it wasn't a good choice because children wouldn't have respect for a teacher who was shorter than they. She rubbed her palms against her skirt before she dared to ask Eva, "Can any of those remedies make you grow?"

Slowly, Eva pulled at a clump of grass until it came out by its roots. She tossed it into the brook, where it swirled in slow loops as it drifted away.

"I don't know of any remedies." Eva's voice was soft. "You'll grow on your own."

"Sister Mathilde — she says I can't be a teacher."

"My mother says people can be anything they want to be."

"What do you want to be?"

"A doctor. I'll be a doctor and you'll be a teacher."

"Teachers have to be tall."

"Teachers have to be smart. You're the smartest girl in class."

"I know," Trudi said without enthusiasm. She would gladly give up being smart if she could be tall. "I don't want to look different."

"Look." Eva unbuttoned her cardigan and blouse. "I'm different too." She pulled up her undershirt. A dark red birthmark, shaped like an irregular flower, spread across her thin chest. Its petals blossomed across her nipples and toward her waist in a paler shade of red than the center, as if they'd faded under a strong sun.

Air and sound and scent spun through Trudi as she raised one hand and brought it close to Eva's flower, spun through her, spun her, as though she were spinning in a world that would always and always spin through her. Her ears hummed and her arms tingled and it took impossible effort not to lay her palm against Eva's chest until Eva nodded, but when she finally did, the skin of the flower was the same warmth as her own hand and it felt as though she were touching herself.

Eva swallowed, twice, and Trudi felt her heart beating beneath the flower. With her free hand, she traced the outline of the petals, wishing she could trade her difference for Eva's.

"It's beautiful," she whispered.

Eva yanked down her undershirt so hard it dislodged Trudi's hands. Her long fingers jammed the buttons back through their holes. "You'll grow, but I'll always have this." She leapt up. "And when I have babies, they'll drink red milk from me." She dashed across the planks to the other side of the river and down the hill that led toward the fairgrounds.

When Trudi ran after her, Seehund raced toward the brook, barked, but recoiled a couple of times before he stalked across the planks like a very old dog. As soon as he was on the other side, he caught up with Trudi, then Eva, circling between the two girls like a sheepdog pulling in his flock.

Trudi wanted to keep running, wanted to keep hearing that conviction in Eva's voice: You'll grow. "You really mean it?" she shouted, her legs feeling long and light as if they'd already begun to stretch.

"What?" Eva stopped. One of her braids had come undone and hung in waves down one side of her face.

"About growing!"

"Yes," Eva shouted back and flung herself into the high grass. "Yes yes yes." Her head disappeared, and she stuck her feet high into the air — above the clover and daisies and cornflowers — her legs pumping the air as though she were riding a bicycle.

Trudi threw herself down next to Eva, her breath fast and dry, but Eva's legs kept flying through the air as if she were trying to get away from wherever she was. Trudi broke off a handful of purple clover and began to braid the stems.

"What are you doing?" Eva dropped her legs and lay motionless.

"Making a crown for you."

Seehund nudged Trudi's shoulder, then dashed off again. Careful not to snap any of the stems, she wove more of the purple flowers into a crown for Eva. The air was moist and still, very still. As Trudi set the crown into Eva's sweaty hair, she wished she could take Eva to the sewing room and keep her there, lock her up, her friend forever.

They stood up, and when Seehund ran toward them, a bird — a gray bird with a ruby chest — swerved from the grass near him. Like a lopsided top, it reeled and whirred, one wing spread, as it fluttered into the dog's path. Playfully, he stopped the mad flight with one paw and, before Trudi could come to the bird's aid, closed his jaws on it.

"Make him stop," Eva cried.

With both hands, Trudi pried Seehund's teeth apart. A startling trace of something ancient and rotting rose with his breath. As he let go of the bird, Eva scooped it up in her hands. Its chest was rising and falling rapidly, and one wing hung at a crooked angle.

Eva carried the bird home in the basket that Seehund had come in. Her mother would set the wing in her office, and Eva would keep the bird in the basket for two days and two nights before she'd find it dead. She would be inconsolable until her father would phone Herr Heidenreich. At his shop, the tall taxidermist would cradle the bird in his hands and promise Eva to give it a new soul. To convince her of his magic, he'd let her hold the lifelike bodies of other birds he'd preserved, inspiring in Eva a fascination with stuffed birds that would continue into her adult years.

But the night after Seehund hurt the bird which, quite likely, had already been injured, Trudi didn't let him into the house. Tied with a length of clothesline to one of the pillars of wood outside the earth nest where Trudi's mother used to hide, the dog spent the night outdoors. Alone in her room, Trudi kept seeing the flower on Eva's chest, kept seeing it through the layers of clothing, lit from within Eva's body.

In school, Trudi and Eva learned that the Jews had killed Jesus. That was true because the sisters said so; but Trudi didn't know if what Fritz Hansen said was also true — that Jews killed Christians and drank their blood and offered them as sacrifices to the devil who was their God. Jews like that seemed far away and foreign — not at all like Eva and the Frau Doktor; or Frau Simon; or the Abramowitz family; or Fraulein Birnsteig, the concert pianist who, it was rumored, was a genius. The Jews in Burgdorf were different kinds of Jews, not the kind who killed Jesus — or anyone, for that matter.

They might beat you up, but not kill you. Trudi had already learned that belonging to one religion meant getting beaten up by kids of other religions. Mostly, though, the Catholic kids would be the ones to chase the Jewish or Protestant kids. There were lots of other reasons for getting beaten up: if you were a girl or if — in any way — you didn't look like others.

In school you also learned it was wrong to question anything that had to do with God and the saints. You had to believe. And for answers that demonstrated your belief you received holy cards — pictures of saints with rings of light around their raised heads. Questions were doubts. Doubts were sins. Even wondering why the Holy Ghost looked like a pigeon was a doubt. Or trying to figure out how that pigeon stayed up in the air between God and Jesus without having to flap its wings like other pigeons.

"There are things we do not ask...."

"If God had wanted us to know, he would have sent us proof, but God wants us to believe...."

But for Trudi, questions that weren't answered kept prodding at her. When she asked Sister Mathilde what God ate, the sister said, "God is nourished by his own eternal love," and when Trudi wanted to know how Jesus could change from being God to being that small, heavy boy on the shoulder of St. Christopherus, the sister told Trudi. "This is what faith is all about — believing what cannot be explained."

But it wasn't only during religion lessons that the sister talked about God. God and the saints had a way of appearing in every subject.

"If Saint Hedwig has ten plums and there are five lepers — how many plums will she give to each leper?"

"When God made the world, where did he put the North Sea?"

"It pleases the Virgin Mother when she sees tidy handwriting."

The prettiest statue of the Virgin Mother was kept in the church basement, but the last day of November it was dusted off and displayed on the side altar of St. Martin's, part of the nativity scene. Maria's gown was the color of heaven, and her mouth curved in a cryptic smile as she knelt next to the pile of straw where the Christ Child lay. St. Josef looked rather stodgy and old, like Herr Blau, the way he stood behind her, leaning on a stick. But all three had identical glittering halos and were surrounded by nearly a hundred clay pots, filled with lush violets, that belonged to the winner of the annual violet contest, an honor that the old women of Burgdorf dreamed about all year and competed for, fiercely.

That December Trudi became a member of the church choir. Sister Mathilde had selected her and Irmtraud Boden because they had the best voices in class and could memorize entire hymns. Trudi loved standing on the high balcony next to the organ, loved the way the other voices in the choir filled in around her voice, and as she belted out the hymns, she felt them vibrate in her chest, her toes, lifting her on the current of music.

"She has the voice of an angel," Herr Heidenreich, who also sang in the choir, told Trudi's father. That compliment meant a lot coming from the taxidermist, whose voice was so beautiful that the pastor always chose him for solos.

When, the first Sunday of Advent, Herr Pastor Schuler lit one of the four candles on the pine wreath that hung above the Holy Family, Trudi felt all sacred and still inside. The rich threads in the pastor's brocade chasuble glistened, and the scent of incense wove itself into her breath. If only she could become a priest. But only men could be priests. Women could be nuns, but she didn't want to be a nun. Nuns had to listen to priests and wear layers of black cloth and stiff wimples that made it hard to turn their heads. Still, if nuns went far far away and became missionaries, they were almost like priests. If she were a missionary, she could travel all over the world like St. Franziskus and baptize hundreds of thousands of pagans in India and China.

Copyright © 1994 by Ursula Hegi

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Table of Contents

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Introduction

Reading Group Discussion Points
  1. Why did Hegi choose a dwarf as her protagonist? How do the other characters respond to Trudi's "otherness"? How do you?
  2. What compels Trudi to unearth people's secrets? She uses these stories as a means of exchange and a tool for bartering, disclosing some secrets while holding back others, enhancing where she sees fit. What drives her to repeat and embellish the stories she hears? What need in her does it fulfill? Why, in contrast, does Trudi keep her own secrets hidden? How does her desire to possess secrets and her urge to tell stories change as the story progresses?
  3. Hegi portrays Trudi as a woman capable of both enormous rage and great compassion. The same woman who takes Max Rudnick a note which reads "I have seen you, and I find you too pitiful to consider," risks her life when she hides Jews in her cellar. How does Hegi reconcile these differences in her main character?
  4. When Trudi is fourteen years old, four schoolboys drag her into a barn and molest her. Trudi is profoundly affected — in what ways does this immediately change her? How does it continue to shape her in the coming years? Is Trudi ever able to overcome it? How?
  5. During the war, Trudi risks her life and her father's by hiding Jews in their cellar. How does this forever transform her relationship to people? What impact do her actions have on the town, and how does it change her standing in Burgdorf?
  6. How does Hegi develop the character of Leo? He is a constant support beam to the townspeople and to Trudi — how does he tie the story together? How are Leo and Trudi different from each other,and in what ways are they similar?
  7. As Nazism encroaches on Burgdorf, Hegi's characters are confronted with moral dilemmas that go far beyond their ordinary experience. What are the different ways in which the townspeople react? What reasons does Hegi suggest for their varying emotions and actions? What do you think you might have done differently in their place?
  8. After Michael Abramowitz is taken away and beaten by Nazis, his wife has a thought that she never voices: "Given a choice, she would rather be the one who was persecuted than the one who did the persecuting." Do you think this is a feeling shared by other Jews during the war? By ordinary Germans? How would you choose?
  9. We do not learn until late in the story that Emil Hesping is the unknown benefactor. We discover that all the years he has been giving gifts to the people of Burgdorf, he has been embezzling money from the gymnasium. How do you feel when he is killed for removing Hitler's unwelcome statue from the town square? The unknown benefactor symbolically counteracts some of the pain Hitler's tyranny has caused. What is Hegi saying about the relation of good deeds to justice?
  10. After the war, many of Burgdorf's townspeople refuse to speak of the war years, pretending that they took no part in the war's evils. What compels them to participate in this complicity of silence? What do you believe can happen to a people when they collectively bury a memory? What purpose does it serve to bring out the truth and to never forget it?
  11. What is the significance of making Trudi and her father the town librarians? Why do you think Hegi uses a library as her novel's principal setting?
  12. How are Burgdorf's women affected by their country's history? Think of Renate Eberhardt, who is turned in by her Nazi son; Ingrid, the young woman searching for divinity; Jutta, the strong and beautiful wife of Klaus Malteri Hanna, the — baby Trudi loves too much; Eva Sturm, who was not protected by her husband, Alexander. What pain and atrocities are visited on the women specifically?
  13. What vision of human nature does Stones from the River express? Does Hegi perceive human beings as fundamentally good, evil, or indifferent? As immutable or capable of transformation?
  14. In Stones from the River, Hegi uses both stones and the river symbolically. What significance does the phrase "stones from the river" acquire in the course of the novel, both for Trudi and the reader? How does Trudi use the stones as a means of self expression? What does the river mean to Trudi, and how does Hegi develop it as a metaphor?
Read More Show Less

Reading Group Guide

Reading Group Discussion Points
  1. Why did Hegi choose a dwarf as her protagonist? How do the other characters respond to Trudi's "otherness"? How do you?
  2. What compels Trudi to unearth people's secrets? She uses these stories as a means of exchange and a tool for bartering, disclosing some secrets while holding back others, enhancing where she sees fit. What drives her to repeat and embellish the stories she hears? What need in her does it fulfill? Why, in contrast, does Trudi keep her own secrets hidden? How does her desire to possess secrets and her urge to tell stories change as the story progresses?
  3. Hegi portrays Trudi as a woman capable of both enormous rage and great compassion. The same woman who takes Max Rudnick a note which reads "I have seen you, and I find you too pitiful to consider," risks her life when she hides Jews in her cellar. How does Hegi reconcile these differences in her main character?
  4. When Trudi is fourteen years old, four schoolboys drag her into a barn and molest her. Trudi is profoundly affected — in what ways does this immediately change her? How does it continue to shape her in the coming years? Is Trudi ever able to overcome it? How?
  5. During the war, Trudi risks her life and her father's by hiding Jews in their cellar. How does this forever transform her relationship to people? What impact do her actions have on the town, and how does it change her standing in Burgdorf?
  6. How does Hegi develop the character of Leo? He is a constant support beam to the townspeople and to Trudi — how does he tie the story together? How are Leo and Trudi different from each other, andin what ways are they similar?
  7. As Nazism encroaches on Burgdorf, Hegi's characters are confronted with moral dilemmas that go far beyond their ordinary experience. What are the different ways in which the townspeople react? What reasons does Hegi suggest for their varying emotions and actions? What do you think you might have done differently in their place?
  8. After Michael Abramowitz is taken away and beaten by Nazis, his wife has a thought that she never voices: "Given a choice, she would rather be the one who was persecuted than the one who did the persecuting." Do you think this is a feeling shared by other Jews during the war? By ordinary Germans? How would you choose?
  9. We do not learn until late in the story that Emil Hesping is the unknown benefactor. We discover that all the years he has been giving gifts to the people of Burgdorf, he has been embezzling money from the gymnasium. How do you feel when he is killed for removing Hitler's unwelcome statue from the town square? The unknown benefactor symbolically counteracts some of the pain Hitler's tyranny has caused. What is Hegi saying about the relation of good deeds to justice?
  10. After the war, many of Burgdorf's townspeople refuse to speak of the war years, pretending that they took no part in the war's evils. What compels them to participate in this complicity of silence? What do you believe can happen to a people when they collectively bury a memory? What purpose does it serve to bring out the truth and to never forget it?
  11. What is the significance of making Trudi and her father the town librarians? Why do you think Hegi uses a library as her novel's principal setting?
  12. How are Burgdorf's women affected by their country's history? Think of Renate Eberhardt, who is turned in by her Nazi son; Ingrid, the young woman searching for divinity; Jutta, the strong and beautiful wife of Klaus Malteri Hanna, the — baby Trudi loves too much; Eva Sturm, who was not protected by her husband, Alexander. What pain and atrocities are visited on the women specifically?
  13. What vision of human nature does Stones from the River express? Does Hegi perceive human beings as fundamentally good, evil, or indifferent? As immutable or capable of transformation?
  14. In Stones from the River, Hegi uses both stones and the river symbolically. What significance does the phrase "stones from the river" acquire in the course of the novel, both for Trudi and the reader? How does Trudi use the stones as a means of self expression? What does the river mean to Trudi, and how does Hegi develop it as a metaphor?
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 71 )
Rating Distribution

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(40)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 71 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 15, 2004

    Wonderful

    I read Stones from the River several years ago and it is still the best book I've ever read. Not only a wonderful novel, but a history lesson as well. Until I read this book I could not comprehend how young German boys ended up turning on their families and neighbors. But the book gave me a sense of the way the Nazis pulled young men in gradually, luring them with an ideology that seemed to promise a brighter future. By the time the Jews were being singled out, these boys were already hopelessy loyal and commited to the 'cause'. A lover of historical novels, I found this book entertaining and thought provoking. I loved it!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 11, 2010

    Heart-Wrenching and Original Story

    This is truly an original story based on the most horrific event of modern times.

    Hegi illustrates the struggles and victories of a dwarf living in Germany during the 1930s and '40s.

    Her characterizations of the people in her book are touching. She eases the reader through the hard times the characters experience-- she's the ultimate compassionate "messenger" of history.

    Hegi's story will bring tears to the eyes of the most stern and may even bring about permanent change in the way people treat others, which would be a huge contribution to society. In fact, this book should be required reading for every high-schooler because one can't help but be moved (for the better) by the poignancy of the story.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 12, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Trudi is a Zwerg, a dwarf. This makes her something of an outsid

    Trudi is a Zwerg, a dwarf. This makes her something of an outsider, and what makes matters worse, her mother is crazy. As in, going to church and taking off all her clothes for the angels, crazy. Then she dies before Trudi is even four years old. Trudi learns to collect stories, and takes pride in retelling them, reshaping them, making them her own. She also has a touch of prescience.

    The Jewish people in Burgdorf are an integral part of the town, initially. But slowly, over the course of years, they are first subtly demonized. There are the German people, and there are the Jews, Us and Them. After the feeling of separation is created, after people have come to tolerate the Jews being insulted, cheated, stones thrown at their windows, they may have their fine houses and businesses taken away. If a Jewish person is thriving while the rest of Germany is in recession, it's easy enough to play on the resentment of the neighbors. Surely those things couldn't have been honestly earned. Once moved to the outskirts of town, they are then moved to other towns, and finally the "work camps." Hegi does a powerful job of portraying how such a horror can come about. At first, rather than protesting their mistreatment, many of the Jewish people themselves believe that if they just keep a low profile, this too shall pass. By the time the harassment gets serious, it is also taken for granted. Those who protest and speak up to defend their neighbors, are also jailed and harassed.

    I found this part of the story fascinating. I found Trudi herself sometimes admirable, generally interesting, and other times not very likable. In the beginning, when she believes that if she hangs from her arms, it will stretch her out and she will grow, I felt very sorry for her, and was moved by her experience of meeting another Zwerg, a beautiful and talented woman named Pia who was comfortable in her own skin. Then there's the search for a boyfriend or lover, because like any girl, she wants to be kissed, and loved. Trudi is definitely a complex, but not comfortable character. She uses rumors - collecting them, spreading them - to get back at those who've hurt her, or who've persecuted their Jewish neighbors.

    I think about 90% of the book is told from Trudi's point of view, including the first third. The early chapters move slowly, but as Trudi's voice becomes older, it becomes much more compelling. The end, on the other hand, is a little choppy, as if the author realized how long the book was already, and felt the need to wind it up quickly. All in all, this is an excellent book, rich in description, and well worth the read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 13, 2013

    Great read

    Loved this book

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 6, 2012

    I loved this book! It was disturbing at times, but kept me enga

    I loved this book! It was disturbing at times, but kept me engaged and wanting more.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 11, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    This was a wonderful book, it deserves its best-seller status. I

    This was a wonderful book, it deserves its best-seller status. It's a wonder feeling when a book changes you, and this one did it for me. Every character in this book was so rich and multi-dimensional, they all touched my heart. After finishing this book I find myself missing them. I found the book to be very historically accurate; it reminded me very much of Irmgard Hunt's autobiography, On Hitler's Mountain. If you're interested in German history, pick up this book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 7, 2012

    must read

    Stones from the River is a daring, dramatic and complex novel of life in Germany. It is set in Burgdorf, a small fictional German town, between 1915 and 1951. The protagonist is Trudi Montag, a Zwerg -- the German word for dwarf woman....Good story, i read in about 2 days....

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 4, 2011

    Great book!

    Although it took me a while to get into the book, I am really glad I got through the whole story.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 2, 2011

    Wonderful!!

    Highly recommended...this is a classic!!! Loved this book from the perspective of the main characters of the German citizens and the WW11 era.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 29, 2010

    A really good story!

    This is a great book, it really makes you think and you find yourself getting lost in the story as it unfolds. This is the story about Trudi who is a dwarf (Zwerg). She is the voice of anyone who has ever tried to fit in. She learns that being different is ok. She harbors Jewish people in her cellar with her father during the war with Hitler. It is a really good story and it makes you appreciate what you have. You really root for Trudi. You will really like this book!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 14, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    One of my favorite books

    Well-written. If you enjoy historical fiction, read this book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 16, 2009

    Wonderful story!

    I would definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in the history of WWII and the Holocaust.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 21, 2013

    beautiful story

    I've wanted to read this book for a long long time, so glad I finally did! There is so much detail in this story, it will keep you interested from beginning to end, highly recommend it.

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  • Posted September 14, 2011

    Worth reading for interesting perspective on WWII, but too slow and dwells on depression and loneliness

    This novel has some pros and cons that make it interesting and exceedingly boring at different points in time. One of the primary reasons that a reader might be deterred from reading on in the start, is from how easy it is to not like the main character, Trudi Montag. The beginning is rather depressing from her mom's insanity to her many attempts to become accepted by those around her, and it invokes empathy. Then the novel drags on and on about how she cannot become accepted by the other children in the small town of Burgdorf, and most readers begin to get tired of the slow pace of the novel. It does however have a very interesting take on the WWII Germany once you reach the rise of the Nazi Regime. The war affects the world around the main character, Trudi, and influences her life and community in unimaginable ways, giving whole new meaning to the treachery of the dark times from a smaller scale perspective from their small town. The reason I give this novel three stars is because it didn't manage to hold my interest all the way to the last page, and I found it hard to read it for too long without falling asleep in some points. However, the novel is worth reading, but it may not be a very enjoyable read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 14, 2011

    Horrible, waste of my summer

    Even by the first few pages of the book, you want to quit it. We are introduced to Trudi's parents, and her background. We find that her father was crippled as a result of WWI, and her mother had an affair while her father was away at war. An accident involving a motorcycle and the affair caused her Mother to have pebbles underneath the skin of her knee. Already we can tell that the novel isn't going to be so great -- and it isn't. It just gets progressively worse. Trudi tells us the story of her life, how she (because of being a dwarf) was bullied, ignored and even raped by members of the town she lives in. THe only point at which the novel gains some interest is during WWII, and that is only due to the interesting and unique perspective of the war from Germans (yes, some NAZI's too). But after the war ends, the book goes back to her telling the sad story of her life, about all the disappointment and hate. Wouldn't suggest this novel.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 10, 2011

    Thought-provoking story from a unique perspective

    Although I found this book to be overly long, I also found it provided such a unique perspective of German society in the years leading up to, during, and post WWII, that I could not put it down. The story is told through the eyes of a social outcast--a dwarf or "zwerg" who spends her entire life growing up in a small town where conformity is synonymous with strength and being different (size or shape, religion, sexuality, etc.)is not just discouraged, it is abhorred. So often Americans will ask how the German people could have let the Jews among them be treated as they were, and this historical fiction piece went a long way to help me understand--so much so, that I felt frightened by how easily something similar could happen here. A thought provoking book.

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  • Posted December 5, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    View from a different "angle" on WW II

    Angst, horror, beauty all woven in one well written novel that shows the best and the worst in all of us, oftentimes within the same person. An incredible story that hits the heart with its exposure of the pain of being different.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 13, 2009

    A very wordy book. Hard to get into, but gave insight to the rise of the Nazi party and its toll on the populace.

    If you can make it past the first 250 pages (almost a whole book in itself) there is some good reading ahead. It often becomes tedious and cryptic - only the determined get beyond it. I wish I could have liked Trudi, but I can understand her wrath at spending the only life she would ever have in the body of a dwarf. Her own story pales in comparison to that of the havoc the Nazis brought down on her little town, and her whole country. That part was well done. While I wouldn't recommend it, I'm glad I stuck with it for the historical part.

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  • Posted April 20, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    A Different Point of View

    This is set in WW II Germany. It does seem to be a popular topic these days and this is yet another point of view. It is one I hadn't considered and therefore is thought provoking. It is written from the view of a dwarf who tries to help Jews. She can get away with some things as she is not taken seriously because of her stature. She is portrayed as insightful. However, the characters are shallow and not well drawn. The writing is stilted. It is an interesting portrayal of the resisiting population and what life might have been like from their prospective, but not one of the greatest pieces of literature around.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 8, 2006

    Fantastic

    This book was amazing!!! I was looking for something to read for my Western Civs Honors book report, and I noticed that this had some good reviews, so I decided to buy it, and it was a GREAT choice. I could hardly put it down! Not only does this book give you a good idea about what it was like to live during WWII, but you also find yourself being absorbed into Trudi's life, to the point where her feelings become yours. Its insightful, interesting, exciting, romantic, honest, raw, and real- a must-have.

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