Saturday, October 25, 2014
Thief of Glory by Sigmund Brouwer
After the last word has been read, the echoes of this book will haunt you. Jeremiah Prins is a boy living in the Dutch East Indies in the 1940's. His prowess with marbles has set him apart from other boys his age. That and his spunk and unwillingness to ever back down from a fight (as long as the other boy throws the first punch--a lesson learned from his headmaster father). One day the trajectory of his life took an ominous turn. The day he met the cocky American boy, Georgie. Jeremiah knew instantly that he'd met an enemy to reckon with.
Fast forward some time and Georgie is the least of his worries as he witnesses his father and older brothers taken off by Japanese military to an internment camp. His father's parting gift was a treasured and rare marble with a dragon suspended inside the glassy orb. A token that will be a constant reminder of his father's unspoken love. Knowing Jeremiah's mother would have no idea how to prepare her family when they too would be herded off like cattle, his father left a packed suitcase with instructions not to open it until they had arrived at their destination. The contents of that suitcase are a striking picture of how much his father loved his family.
The ensuing three years are full of unspeakable hardship, cruelty and persecution. Watching his family waste away, his mother descend into madness and losing his prized marble were only part of the horrors of war for Jeremiah. His fighting instincts serve him well but cannot fully insulate him from the pain, nor the hated presence of Georgie. Hatred is the fuel for Jeremiah's survival--hatred for Georgie and hatred for the Japanese.
Fast forward decades to view Jeremiah in his 80's still grappling with personal demons that his adult daughter cannot fully understand. He has never told her of his childhood in the camp. Never explained what horrors he lived through.
Such a tragic life--made twisted and ugly by the ravages of war and its casualties. Sometimes death is not the greatest enemy. Having to live with the awful reality of guilt and shame can be far worse. This book is part memoir (inspired by Brower's own parents but also a compilation of the experiences of many others) and part mystery as the years between age 11 and age 80 are revealed through an old man's written recollections. He keeps meticulous journals in an attempt to fend off the clouding of his mind and to leave behind some explanation to his daughter for his reserve and inability to express his love and pride in her.
To think how many endured such horrific conditions is unbelievable. To pretend it never happened is unconscionable. This book is a beautiful testimony to so many heroic characters. Their stories deserve to be told and remembered. And we honor their memory by striving to follow their examples of courage and perseverance.
Read a fascinating Q & A with the author about his book and watch the book trailer. You can also visit Random House to read an excerpt. Thief of Glory can be purchased directly from Random House for $14.99 or from various other retailers online.
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of Thief of Glory for the purpose of review. No other compensation was received.