Stones from the River
Stones from the River is a daring, dramatic and complex novel of life in Germany. It is set in Burgdorf, a small fictional German town, between 1915 and 1951. The protagonist is Trudi Montag, a Zwerg—the German word for dwarf woman. As a dwarf she is set apart, the outsider whose physical “otherness” has a corollary in her refusal to be a part of Burgdorf’s silent complicity during and after World War II. Trudi establishes her status and power, not through beauty, marriage, or motherhood, but rather as the town’s librarian and relentless collector of stories.
Through Trudi’s unblinking eyes, we witness the growing impact of Nazism on the ordinary townsfolk of Burgdorf as they are thrust on to a larger moral stage and forced to make choices that will forever mark their lives. Stones from the River is a story of secrets, parceled out masterfully by Trudi—and by Ursula Hegi—as they reveal the truth about living through unspeakable times.
Oprah Book Club® Selection, February 1997: Ursula Hegi’s Stones from the River clamors for comparisons to Gunter Grass’s The Tin Drum; her protagonist Trudi Montag—like the unforgettable Oskar Mazerath—is a dwarf living in Germany during the two World Wars. To its credit, Stones does not wilt from the comparison. Hegi’s book has a distinctive, appealing flavor of its own. Stone’s characters are off-center enough to hold your attention despite the inevitable dominance of the setting: There’s Trudi’s mother, who slowly goes insane living in an “earth nest” beneath the family house; Trudi’s best friend Georg, whose parents dress him as the girl they always wanted; and, of course, Trudi herself, whose condition dooms her to long for an impossible normalcy. Futhermore, the reader’s inevitable sympathy for Trudi, the dwarf, heightens the true grotesqueness of Nazi Germany. Stones from the River is a nightmare journey with an unforgettable guide.