528 pages, 8 × 5.25 × 1.3 in
March 1, 1997
The following ISBNs are associated with this title:
ISBN - 10: 068484477X
ISBN - 13: 9780684844770
Read from the Book
Sometimes Trudi and Eva played with Seehund by the brook in back of the pay-library, but he'd run from them, yelping, if they'd splash him with water. And whenever they dragged him into the brook to teach him how to swim, he escaped as soon as they let go of his collar. Soon he learned to stay at a safe distance from Trudi if she went near water. "You should have named him something else," Eva said one fall afternoon after they'd given up on trying to submerge Seehund. "A seal is supposed to love water." "We'll call him Earth Snail," Trudi suggested. Eva laughed. "Turtle Breath." Both arms stretched wide, Trudi whirled around. "Turtle Breath," she chanted. "Earth Snail...." Her right foot banged into the end of the wooden planks that spanned the narrow arm of the brook soon after it forked. She cried out. "Pinch your earlobe," Eva yelled. Clutching her toe in one hand, Trudi hopped back and forth on the other foot. "Just try it," Eva ordered. "It stops the pain." When Trudi pinched her earlobe, it stung. Miraculously, her toe stopped hurting. "How come it works?" She plopped down on the grass next to Eva. "It just does. I'll show you something else." Eva brought her face up against Trudi's. Her breath smelled of raspberry pudding as she opened her lips -- so wide that Trudi could see deep inside her mouth. Its roof was curved like the ceiling in St. Martin's Church, and the dark gap in back was separated by a pink icicle. When Eva's tongue stretched up, it hid the gap but ex
From the Publisher
From the acclaimed author of Floating in My Mother’s Palm and Children and Fire, a stunning story about ordinary people living in extraordinary times—“epic, daring, magnificent, the product of a defining and mesmerizing vision” (Los Angeles Times).
Trudi Montag is a Zwerg—a dwarf—short, undesirable, different, the voice of anyone who has ever tried to fit in. Eventually she learns that being different is a secret that all humans share—from her mother who flees into madness, to her friend Georg whose parents pretend he’s a girl, to the Jews Trudi harbors in her cellar.
Ursula Hegi brings us a timeless and unforgettable story in Trudi and a small town, weaving together a profound tapestry of emotional power, humanity, and truth.
About the Author
Ursula HegiUrsula Hegi grew up in a small German town. She left her country of origin when she was eighteen years old, moved to America, and became a United States citizen five years later. Hegi has discovered that it is impossible to leave behind one's origins. "The older I get," she says, "the more I realize that I am inescapably encumbered with the heritage of my country's history."Hegi's interest in writing began when she was six years old. At the age of fourteen or fifteen, she wrote in German half a novel on lined note paper. It was not until after she arrived in the States that she wrote and tried to publish her first novel. Discouraged by all the rejection letters, she abandoned writing for three years. When she was twenty-eight, with two sons ages five and one, Hegi enrolled at the University of New Hampshire for a BA and then an MA. This was when her serious commitment to writing began. It was then that she made the decision to keep writing, even if no one ever read her work again. It changed the way she wrote: instead of writing to be published, she wrote for herself With the self-imposed pressure removed, her work began to flow. Her first novel, Intrusions, was published in 1981.Germany beckoned Hegi to return in 1986 when she was researching Floating in My Mother's Palm, the highly acclaimed novel about life in a small German village called Burgdorf. While visiting her hometown, she searched for the Zwerg woman she remembered from her childhood, a woman who had
From Our Editors
A charming and quirky novel set in a small German town and spanning the two World Wars, Stones from the River follows the story of Trudi Montag, a dwarf. Living in Nazi Germany isn't easy for Trudi, but neither is living with her slowly teetering on the edge of insanity mother, or seeing her best friend, Georg, dressed as a girl and continually humiliated by his parents who wanted a girl. Ursula Hegi has crafted a deftly-woven tale that at once evokes sympathy for Trudi and enhances the true deformity of the Nazi Party. Hegi is also the author of Floating in My Mother's Palm.
Suzanne Ruta The New York Times Book Review Rich and lively...This moving, elegiac novel commands our compassion and respect for the wisdom and courage to be found in unlikely places, in unlikely times.
Reading Group Discussion Points
- Why did Hegi choose a dwarf as her protagonist? How do the other characters respond to Trudi's "otherness"? How do you?
- What compels Trudi to unearth people's secrets? She uses these stories as a means of exchange and a tool for bartering, disclosing some secrets while holding back others, enhancing where she sees fit. What drives her to repeat and embellish the stories she hears? What need in her does it fulfill? Why, in contrast, does Trudi keep her own secrets hidden? How does her desire to possess secrets and her urge to tell stories change as the story progresses?
- Hegi portrays Trudi as a woman capable of both enormous rage and great compassion. The same woman who takes Max Rudnick a note which reads "I have seen you, and I find you too pitiful to consider," risks her life when she hides Jews in her cellar. How does Hegi reconcile these differences in her main character?
- When Trudi is fourteen years old, four schoolboys drag her into a barn and molest her. Trudi is profoundly affected -- in what ways does this immediately change her? How does it continue to shape her in the coming years? Is Trudi ever able to overcome it? How?
- During the war, Trudi risks her life and her father's by hiding Jews in their cellar. How does this forever transform her relationship to people? What impact do her actions have on the town, and how does it change her standing in Burgdorf?
- How does Hegi develop the character of Leo? He is a constant support beam to the townspeople and to Trudi -- how does he tie the story together? How are Leo and Trudi different from each other, and in what ways are they similar?
- As Nazism encroaches on Burgdorf, Hegi's characters are confronted with moral dilemmas that go far beyond their ordinary experience. What are the different ways in which the townspeople react? What reasons does Hegi suggest for their varying emotions and actions? What do you think you might have done differently in their place?
- After Michael Abramowitz is taken away and beaten by Nazis, his wife has a thought that she never voices: "Given a choice, she would rather be the one who was persecuted than the one who did the persecuting." Do you think this is a feeling shared by other Jews during the war? By ordinary Germans? How would you choose?
- We do not learn until late in the story that Emil Hesping is the unknown benefactor. We discover that all the years he has been giving gifts to the people of Burgdorf, he has been embezzling money from the gymnasium. How do you feel when he is killed for removing Hitler's unwelcome statue from the town square? The unknown benefactor symbolically counteracts some of the pain Hitler's tyranny has caused. What is Hegi saying about the relation of good deeds to justice?
- After the war, many of Burgdorf's townspeople refuse to speak of the war years, pretending that they took no part in the war's evils. What compels them to participate in this complicity of silence? What do you believe can happen to a people when they collectively bury a memory? What purpose does it serve to bring out the truth and to never forget it?
- What is the significance of making Trudi and her father the town librarians? Why do you think Hegi uses a library as her novel's principal setting?
- How are Burgdorf's women affected by their country's history? Think of Renate Eberhardt, who is turned in by her Nazi son; Ingrid, the young woman searching for divinity; Jutta, the strong and beautiful wife of Klaus Malteri Hanna, the -- baby Trudi loves too much; Eva Sturm, who was not protected by her husband, Alexander. What pain and atrocities are visited on the women specifically?
- What vision of human nature does Stones from the River express? Does Hegi perceive human beings as fundamentally good, evil, or indifferent? As immutable or capable of transformation?
- In Stones from the River, Hegi uses both stones and the river symbolically. What significance does the phrase "stones from the river" acquire in the course of the novel, both for Trudi and the reader? How does Trudi use the stones as a means of self expression? What does the river mean to Trudi, and how does Hegi develop it as a metaphor?