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The Book Thief
by Markus Zusak
The Book Thief Chapter 16 Summary
Dead Letters First, we jump briefly ahead to September of 1943. In the Hubermann basement. Liesel is writing in a black book. Hans is with her, and he has his accordion. He confesses to Liesel that he almost answered her mother's letters himself. Now, back to 1940. January and February pass, and Liesel doesn't hear back from her mother. Hans is in obvious pain during Liesel's daily trips to the empty mailbox. To make matters worse, another washing customer is lost. Rosa is in a fury. Liesel is in the basement writing another letter to her mother. She's written five, but only sent the first one. She can hear Rosa wailing. When Liesel turns eleven in the middle of February, Mama and Papa can't afford to buy her anything, and Papa doesn't have any tobacco to trade. Mama is mad at him for not holding back one of the Christmas books so they could give it to her now. He apologizes profusely. Liesel doesn't get upset or anything. But, she decides to take some of the money she'll collect for Rosa and use it to mail the five letters to her mother. Three days after her birthday, she puts her plan into action.
When Rosa questions her about the money, Liesel first blames a customer and then confesses to taking the money. Without waiting for the explanation, Rosa begins beating her severely with the wooden spoon. After the beating, Liesel tells Rosa what she did with the money. Then, Liesel realizes the truth of the matter, "she would never see her [mother] again" (16.20). This is like getting another beating. Rosa says, "I'm sorry, Liesel" (16.22). As Liesel knows, Rosa is sorry about Liesel's mother, not about beating Liesel. Liesel, covered with red marks, lies on the floor. When Hans comes and plays the accordion an hour later, she begins "to recover" (16.27). Later on, Liesel will write about it and she won't be mad at Rosa, or at her mother. She will understand that they are "only victims of circumstance" (16.28). On Hitler's birthday, Liesel will learn why her mother hasn't answered. Liesel will be "ready" (16.36) to give Hitler a "Happy birthday," book thief-style.
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