This month’s book club post comes from our Human Resources Associate, Jessica D’Addio.
Once again we tried to pull away from the group’s favorite post- apocalyptic genre… sort of. After the book discussion, we realized that our November pick, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne, had a bit more in common with our favorite genre than we originally thought.
Boyne’s novel is a fictional story based on the WWII era in Nazi Germany. Our protagonist is 9-year-old Bruno, whose family moves from Berlin to a new place called “Out With” (Auschwitz) after a life changing dinner with The Fury (Adolf Hitler). There are no other children in this new place. The only other child to play with is his older sister, who he refers to as “the hopeless case,” so he instead ventures out on his own explorations.
While out on one of these explorations, he comes across a fence with a boy his age sitting on the other side. Both boys had to leave their homes and friends very quickly. With a sort of shared disappointment, Bruno and the boy, Shmuel, become fast friends and begin to meet every day at the fence. Bruno shares food with Shmuel, wishes they could play together and knows that if they could, they would make great partners for exploring. One day, Shmuel confides in Bruno that his father has gone missing, so Bruno volunteers to help him explore on his side of the fence with a disguise Shmuel provides him. You’ll have to read the book to learn what happens on Bruno and Shmuel’s journey on the other side of the fence.
Our group had a hard time fathoming that, even at the age of 9, Bruno could be so naïve about what was happening on the other side of the fence by his new home. We also thought about times in our own lives when we had been naïve in our own ways, whether from innocence as children (the Tooth Fairy, Santa) or purposefully as adults. Living and working in New York City, we often come across many different walks of life, but admittedly we sometimes “ignore” what we see rather than fully comprehend the severity of the situation.
We also spoke about how our book club loves post-apocalyptic stories about civilizations that had to start over by labeling people and putting them into groups, floors, or factions such as in two recent book club picks, Wool and Divergent. Yet, this month we had a significantly decreased number of attendees at our book club meeting. It made us realize that it is much easier to read a story about human cruelty when the setting is purely fictional. It is much more challenging to read stories, like “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas”, set during significant events in our history.
Next month’s book club pick is from Stephen Schrage, Client Services Manager, and Detroit local. Join us as we read Detroit: An American Autopsy by Charlie LeDuff.