This book deserves pretty much every kudo it's received (including winning the Pulitzer). Sweeping, detailed, horrifying, mystical, intimate. It's incredible what Doerr's done here.
I'll admit right off the bat that Werner's story was not as captivating to me as Marie-Laure's. I'm sorry, Werner, but it's difficult to compete with a blind girl who's lost so much, living in such pitiful circumstances. Of course, there's no way Doerr could have written the book without opposing nationalities as main characters. He has to tell two sides or he loses credulity, a compelling narrative, and the ability to spin that aforementioned mystical tale.
I'll also admit that it's surprising to still be reading WWII stories and to be reading good ones at that. Yes, of course, one of the most astonishing tragedies of the world will always be re-told and attempted to be re-told with a different light cast upon it (be it fiction, non-fiction, sculpture, poetry, painting, narrative film, documentary, etc., etc.). But at least in film, it seems rare to see something truly original and moving. Visually, we recognize the impact of the setting, but we are often inured to its meaning in that format.
This tale transcends that with a thoughtful structure (both in terms of brevity of chapters and chronological juxtaposition of major parts), a fascinating rumination on the nature of connections (be they radio waves or more nebulous and fragile interactions among people), a way of pinpointing the horror of the war without dwelling on it (the most horrific for me was meeting the elderly Jewess in the elevator), and the general sensitivity to every character he creates (even Volkheimer). This is pretty much a must-read.