Can a book be one’s spiritual companion throughout the years? The Hiding Place has been a companion and a candle for me almost my whole life. First published in 1971 by Revell, The Hiding Place is the story of Corrie ten Boom, a middle-aged watchmaker who became a heroine of the Dutch resistance and a survivor of Hitler’s death camps. I think of ten Boom as “Tante Corrie,” though she is not my aunt except through the family of God.
My first memory of Tante Corrie takes me time-traveling to my dad’s Christian bookstore in downtown Winnipeg. I’m about 7 years old. With my little brother nearby, I cuddle up in a sleeping bag on the floor between the bookshelves after hours, reading the “comic book” version of The Hiding Place. (I see now that those books illustrating such Christian classics as The Cross and the Switchblade and God’s Smuggler were early graphic novels.)
In later years, I would read and reread The Hiding Place and even work for Revell for a few years. But my last reread was different. For one thing, I listened to the 2009 audiobook with warm and engaging narration by Bernadette Dunne. Listening brought the story to life in a new way. I “saw” in vivid scenes Tante Corrie and her beloved family risking everything to hide Jews and underground workers from the Nazis. Listening also evoked mental snapshots of the comic book in a way reading didn’t.
I remembered the yellow triangle in the window of Papa ten Boom’s watch shop. I saw the miniature note hidden behind a stamp on a letter to Tante Corrie in prison: “The watches are safe,” code for the news that the six Jews hidden in the family’s secret room were alive. I replayed the wrenching yet grace-filled goodbye between Corrie and her papa. Those scenes filled me again with wonder and fresh courage.
I am not alone. For nearly 50 years, millions of readers have seen that there is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still, and that Jewish people are the apple of God’s eye. Because of Casper ten Boom, we understand now that “when a train goes through a tunnel, and it gets dark, you don’t throw away the ticket and jump off. You sit still and trust the engineer.”
Revisiting this classic refreshes for me Psalm 32:7: “You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.”
At the end of 2019, I listen again to Tante Corrie’s story and I orbit from the Netherlands during World War II to Manitoba in 1975 and the bookstore’s smell of paper, ink, and binding glue, to the here and now. I am thankful anew for a book companion that has comforted, formed, challenged, and awakened me like none other.