Under Cover Book Club: All the Light We Cannot See

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light bookWhen it comes to books, I can sometimes be compared to the affable, but slightly dopey dog in the animated movie “UP.”

Fans of the film will recall that the pup, Dug, was forever being distracted from the task at hand, by a squirrel. Dug’s proclivity for dropping what he was doing to immediately switch gears and call out, “Squirrel!” has become somewhat of a metaphor for allowing ourselves to be wooed by whatever shiny new objects, or squirrels, we encounter while going about our business.

I am definitely guilty of this when it comes to my reading habits. I have a to-read list a mile long, yet can’t seem to ever cross a few off before adding more to the ranks.

There are so many good books out there, and each time I come across another one, I am drawn into its snare, forgetting about the dozens of its literary counterparts that will remain words on a list while I tackle my shiny new squirrel.

In fact, I have pretty much accepted the fact that I will never actually make it through the list. I guess it’s just my cross to bear – I feel ya, Dug.

As a matter of fact, this month’s book club selection was a victim of my fickle book affections back in the summertime. Originally purchased and slated to be the book club choice for June, it got tabled when Dr. Maya Angelou passed away, and I felt it appropriate to pay my respects by instead reading “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.”

Somehow, in the ensuing months, I haven’t yet been able to circle back, but the fact that the book was just awarded the Goodreads Reader’s Choice Award for historical fiction has brought it back into the hot seat. So, with only a slight six month delay, please allow me to introduce you

Anthony Doerr
Anthony Doerr

to the Under Cover Book Club selection for December: “All the Light We Cannot See,” by Anthony Doerr.

A full decade in the making, Doerr’s novel, set in both Germany and France during WWII, tells the very different stories of our two main characters, Marie-Laure, and Werner.

Marie-Laure lives with her father, Master of the Locks for the Natural History Museum, in Paris. Struck blind at the age of six, Marie-Laure is given an incredibly detailed model of their neighborhood by her father, so that she can memorize it with her fingers, and thus, navigate its larger counterpart with confidence.

As the Nazis occupy Paris, Marie-Laure and her father flee to the walled coastal town of Saint Malo, and the home of her great uncle. Traveling with them is the museum’s most valuable treasure, a precious stone which they were able to spirit away.

Contrastingly, Werner did not grow up with a doting father. He and his sister are German orphans, who found an old radio, awakening Werner’s innate understanding of how things work. Becoming somewhat of an engineering genius, he attracts the attention of the Hitler Youth program, and “earns” a spot in a rather brutal military academy, where his skills are to be built upon.

Becoming an integral part in tracking the resistance, Werner’s skills take him on a journey that will ultimately land him in Saint Malo, where the two protagonists’ stories will finally intertwine.

Known for his lyrical prose, Doer tells a story  – or stories, more aptly – that while

technical, is still able to draw readers in through the artful telling itself.  Fellow author, JR Moehringer, had this to say of Doerr’s writing:

Anthony Doerr sees the world as a scientist, but feels it as a poet. He knows about everything—radios, diamonds, mollusks, birds, flowers, locks, guns—but he also writes a line so beautiful, creates an image or scene so haunting, it makes you think forever differently about the big things—love, fear, cruelty, kindness, the countless facets of the human heart.”

I can’t think of much higher praise for a writer. And, while my journey to this book may have been six months in the making, perhaps those squirrels along the way will make me savor the experience even more.

Edie Crabtree is an avid reader, and the mother of three active boys.  She can be reached at [email protected].


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