What I Read: February 2015, Part Two
The storyteller by jodi picoult
I have read only a half dozen or so of Jodi Picoult’s 23 novels, but after reading The Storyteller, I may embark on a mission to read each one. She is an author whose writing gets better and better.
Picoult has built a reputation on dealing with some terrible issues through storytelling. From child abuse, school shootings and date rape, she takes our worst fears (especially parents’) and asks ‘what if?’ That is probably why I begin each of her books with my heart pounding. Yet I was still not prepared for the impact of The Storyteller, which addresses the Holocaust.
The structure of this book is similar her previous books; the narrative is told from the view of several characters and includes a legal perspective. The three pivotal characters are a young woman, a former German SS guard the woman befriends in a grief group before knowing his secret, and a young girl living in Poland during World War II. Through these protagonists, Picoult considers the ripple effect of the Holocaust as survivors are dying off and their stories seem less relevant to a generation twice removed.
Sage Singer works nights at a bakery, where she can better hide the scars that hint at her own tragedy. Sage is a non-practicing Jew whose grandmother never speaks of her time in Poland during World War II. Sage has never really considered her heritage or her grandmother's past until she befriends Josef, an elderly gentleman from her grief group.
Josef Weber is everyone's favorite retired teacher and coach. One day he asks Sage for a favor: to kill him. Once Sage learns Josef’s secret—that he is a former Nazi SS guard – she begins to question not only her heritage, but issues of justice, forgiveness and redemption.
I loved this story. I loved the writing. But most of all, I loved how Picoult used the story to ask questions which will always remain relevant: What is justice? What is the difference between retribution and revenge, forgiveness and mercy? And who is the arbiter of these?
Read The Storyteller and you will have some questions of your own.