Stones from the River


Stones from the River is the engrossing tale of Burgdorf, a small town in the German countryside whose inhabitants are thrown into the maelstrom of history when World War II begins. In finely crafted prose that probes the intricacies of human cruelty and compassion, Ursula Hegi introduces readers to the unforgettable character of Trudi Montag.

Born with dwarfism, Trudi spends her childhood desperately trying to stretch herself to the height of her classmates. As she grows older, she begins to see signs of difference in even her most ordinary neighbors, and soon is collecting and storing their secrets for her own purposes. And when the Nazi party gains power, her penchant for secrecy proves invaluable in protecting the Jews she hides in her cellar.

Trigger warning for sexual assualt.

 “They called her a snoop, a meddler. But even though she was even more inconvenient to them than ever before, they kept coming back — to borrow books, they liked to believe — yet, what they really came for, even those who feared Trudi Montag, were the stories she told them about their neighbors and relatives. What they brought Trudi in return were stories of their own lives, which they yielded to her questions or, unknowingly, to her ears as she overheard them talk to each other between the stacks; and they didn’t even miss what she had taken from them until the words they’d bartered in return for her tales had ripened into new stories that disclosed far more about them than they knew themselves.”

Ursula Hegi is a novelist and professor. Her books include Stones from the River, Floating in My Mother’s Palm, Salt Dancers, and The Worst Thing I’ve Done. Born in Düsseldorf, Germany, she now lives and teaches in New York.

Published: 1994
Length: 525 pages
Set in: Germany