Lives can be measured by the connections we make as we move through time and our world. Book in The Bluff is a vehicle we can use to make these connections.
This year’s choice for our community read is perfect. It is a book about connections, how lives are intertwined, and the serendipitous nature of connections. Our book about World War II respects civilians and soldiers who fought and suffered during the war. Reading the book brings an understanding of those caught in the war due to circumstances and not necessarily ideology. It is a book of convergence where people who seemingly would not have any commonality or would meet under normal conditions are thrown together because of a world war.
Over the past 10 to 15 years, we hear people speak of six degrees of separation. This means that there is something in our past and another’s and with a chance meeting we find that we know some of the same people, have a kinship, or have walked similar paths. This has happened to me often but this one chance encounter has always amazed me.
I was eating lunch in the community where I worked at a restaurant called, Miss Mary Bobo’s, in Lynchburg, Tennessee. Lunch is served family-style. As a result, perfect strangers share a meal and say, “Pass the peas, please” while enjoying conversation. I sat next to a couple of people from Springfield, Illinois. I had to say, “I have a cousin who had a lumber yard in Springfield.” “Really?” they said questioningly. As it turned out, their daughter worked for this lumber yard. One person from Missouri working in Tennessee meets an Illinois resident and they have people in common.
Our Book in The Bluff is much like this. The characters in the book, Germans and Frenchmen, are intertwined and these relationships create the story. Two children, one German and the other French, meet and have a radio broadcast in common. This broadcast sets the stage for survival and humanity. Reading, we follow these children from the late ’30s to the Allied invasion of France in 1944.
The book progresses to a climax that can only happen in war. This book illustrates the madness and grotesque nature of war. We know about the insidious and devastating experiences of the Holocaust and here we read of the consequences of war on children, soldiers, and ordinary citizens.
The Book in The Bluff, a Pulitzer Prize winner, is All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (2014). The New York Times describes it as “hauntingly beautiful.” The author paints descriptions of Germany, Russia, Paris, and Saint-Malo. He describes a Parisian rain, “As he walks up the Rue Cuvier and turns into the Jardin des Plantes, the trees look misty and significant: parasols held up just for him.”
There are lyrical and sometimes brutal descriptions of the coal communities of Essen, Russian battlefronts, and the textures and sights of Saint-Malo. All are in the midst of death, destruction, and holocaust.
The announcement of our Book in The Bluff on Jan. 27 coincides with International Holocaust Remembrance Day, and marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. This is appropriate for our Book, All the Light We Cannot See. It honors our speaker Rachel Goldman Miller of St. Louis. Mrs. Miller is a Holocaust survivor and was a child in Paris during the war. Her presentation is at 7 p.m. at the library on April 21.
In addition to Mrs. Miller’s presentation, the library is hosting three simultaneous traveling exhibits in the Library’s Theater. The Notes Rose up in Flames: Music and the Holocaust and Bystander to Upstander and The Power of One During and After the Holocaust are presented by Nancy & David Wolf Holocaust & Humanity Center.
The third exhibit, Parallel Journeys: The Holocaust through the Eyes of Teens, is curated by Kennesaw State University Museum of History and Holocaust Education.
These exhibits will be at the library, March through April. All of the activities, Ms. Miller’s presentation, exhibits and books for schools are generously sponsored by Sterling Bank.
Please participate and read the book All the Light We Cannot See. Check it out from the library or purchase your copy at Artfully Framed, Whitworth’s Gift Chest Jewelers, or Kroger.
Save the date: 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 21 at the Poplar Bluff Municipal Library.
For more information, call 573-686-8639 or visit the library’s website at www.poplarbluff.org.