A Review of Jodi Picoult’s Newest Book, The Storyteller.

Hello readers, this is what I hope will be the first of many book review posts. I love to read and I usually manage to fit in a book or two a week, depending on how busy things get. How do I manage to read that much with two children under 3? I try to set aside “me” time each night specifically for reading.

Traveling has always been a passion of mine. There are countless places I wish to visit, but I lack the funds, the time, and the patience (I know what you’re thinking, “Patience? For taveling?” Traveling with two little ones requires an abundance of patience, trust me!) to travel as far and as often as I would like. I have found that the easiest and most affordable way of traveling is within a book. Not only can you travel to different places in a book, you can travel to different times as well. It’s always seemed fairly magical to me.

It has been suggested to me that I should post my book reviews here for everyone to read. I was very excited by the idea when it was suggested. I only ask that you don’t decide not to read a book because of something I have said. Opinions are a wonderful thing and I don’t expect everyone to hold the same one as I do. I would hate for you to miss the opportunity to discover an amazing book that could become your favorite place to visit simply because of something negative I had to say about it. With that, I will begin my first book review.

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The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult

I am a huge Jodi Picoult fan. There have been only two books written by her that I haven’t particularly cared for (Mercy and Songs of the Humpback Whale). When I heard she had a new book coming out I knew I had to get my hands on it as soon as possible. I started reading The Storyteller and had a very hard time putting it down. There was at least one day while reading it that I suffered from an extremely late night at the hands of this book. Here is the description that Goodreads gives of The Storyteller:

“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 behavior? 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?”

I will try to give as little away as possible, but be warned that there may be spoilers here. This was a difficult story to read through. There are two descriptions of The Holocaust, one from a survivor and one from a self-confessed Nazi. They’re equally hard to read. I found myself in tears a couple of times while reading. Even though I was reading this book knowing that it was a work of fiction, it’s an inescapable fact that this story could belong to someone real. Horrific, unimaginable events occurred during that part of history and who can say for sure that someone didn’t experience these exact things that Jodi Picoult has written.

Sage Singer struggles throughout the story with what to do about Josef Weber’s difficult request. She struggles with seeing the man he is now, at ninety-five, as the same man he is describing to her who murdered thousands of Jews in the war. Sage turns to her grandmother, Minka and asks her, for the first time, to really tell her what she went through as a teenager during the Holocaust. Minka reluctantly agrees and then we hear her difficult story.

I have to say that I struggled right along with Sage. We’re introduced to Josef Weber in the story as a kind old man who shares his food with his dog and befriends an insecure and scarred Sage without hesitation. For some reason I think it’s a common thing that we can’t picture elderly people ever doing horrible things. We just see a sweet old man who wouldn’t hurt a fly, or I do at least. So it was hard to relate this horrible Nazi who did unspeakable things with the friendly, elderly Josef Weber that we’d come to briefly know already. I found myself thinking of them as two separate people until I read Minka’s first hand account of the atrocities she suffered. From then on I was not a fan of Josef Weber. I felt a little tense each time Sage went to his house after that, afraid of what might happen next.

Much like Jodi Picoult’s other novels, there is a twist in The Storyteller. I figured out what the twist was before I got to it, but that didn’t diminish my enjoyment of the story. The only negative part for me really wasn’t a huge negative and I believe it’s something other people might enjoy. Minka was a writer and she had been writing a story at the time of the Holocaust and it helped her survive. Between each chapter we get to read little parts of this. I understand why it was included and it was a big part of the story, it just wasn’t important to me to read that part, I was too anxious to get to the next chapter and see what was happening with Sage, Josef, and Minka.

I’m afraid to say anything else about this book because I really don’t want to give anything away. I would suggest you read it for yourself if you think you can handle the difficult subject matter. It was one of my favorite books to date of Jodi Picoult’s. There is a quote within the book from Minka’s friend Darija where she says, “It’s because you don’t just tell stories, you paint with words.” I feel this is what Jodi Picoult does time after time.