Jodi Picoult’s latest novel “The Storyteller” is a whopper. Filled with drama, heartbreak, and overwhelming grief, this novel threatens to steal away all of your attention, and leave you with a tiny hole in the heart.
Can one blur the lines between past and present? Can one forgive the horrendous crimes of another? “The Storyteller” is a book on forgiveness and atonement – particularly, what can be atoned for and what sins haunt us for the rest of our lives.
Release Date: February 2013
Good Reads Synopsis: Sage Singer befriends an old man who’s particularly beloved in her community. Josef Weber is everyone’s favorite retired teacher and Little League coach. They strike up a friendship at the bakery where Sage works. One day he asks Sage for a favor: to kill him. Shocked, Sage refuses…and then he confesses his darkest secret – he deserves to die, because he was a Nazi SS guard. Complicating the matter? Sage’s grandmother is a Holocaust survivor. What do you do when evil lives next door? Can someone who’s committed a truly heinous act ever atone for it with subsequent good behaviour? Should you offer forgiveness to someone if you aren’t the party who was wronged? And most of all – if Sage even considers his request – is it murder, or justice?
Review: I truly love Jodi Picoult. I’ve read all of her novels and I know every story inside out. So now, I’ve come to anticipate the makings of her story – they generally shift points of views from character to character, have some sort of legal / courtroom scene, and end with a slight twist. This one, thankfully, doesn’t follow the same pattern. It was a breath of fresh air.
This novel is actually made up of smaller stories that are binded into one. The first story you come across, and is told in installments, is a fictional ‘fairy’ tale story. The next, is the story of Sage, a loner baker. This is the portion of the story that sets up the rest of the novel. It introduces our characters (Josef and Safe), makes us adore their friendship, and then rips us to pieces when histories are revealed. The next (albeit, shorter) shorter is an insight on Josef. This portion is particularly compelling, as it gives small insight into the live of a character we’ve grown to hate, just through his association with the Holocaust.
The next portion, and thankfully, a major portion of the actual novel, is the story of Minka – Sage’s grandmother and Holocaust survivor. Minka’s story explains what it was like for a Jew before the Holocaust, as well as the horrors after Hitler’s regime took full effect. Her tale is woven within the Jewish ghetto, as well as a bulk part taking place in Auschwitz. This portion of the novel will sweep you off your feet, make your blood run cold, and your hair stand on end. It’s an almost guarantee that you’ll shed tears during this section. It’s exceptionally written – Picoult’s flair for writing really triumphs here. Her descriptions alone could make you salavate (there is constant talk of baking), or make you shrink back in horror (death becomes woven into every sentence). It’s evident though the horror on the pages that Picoult has taken her time to research this era. This section, Minka’s section, is the reason to read this book. It’s profound and horrific, all in one. Minka’s section raises the question – were all Germans ‘evil’ or was there redemption and goodness in them? Is there a way to ‘atone’ for the sins against Minka? How does one go on living after life itself has crumbled around you?
All in all, this book does have difficult subject matter, but the importance of Minka’s pages are inherent to this novel. Minka’s story will break your heart in two. While Picoult does bring out some of her usual ploys (twists and turns, anyone?), it works here and works well.
Arguably, Jodi Picoult’s best book in years.
Have you read it? Leave a comment telling me what you thought!