Jodi Picoult will be coming to my library again in March. She came through Seattle last year with the release of Lone Wolf and was warm and generous with her fans. While I have enjoyed much of Picoult’s work over the years and appreciate her as a writer and a person, I was unprepared by how moved I was by her forthcoming novel, The Storyteller.
The Storyteller, like other Picoult novels before, is narrated by different characters as the book progresses. But it starts with Sage Singer, a young woman who hides in her night-owl job at a bakery where she can retreat from others and hide the scar that lines her face and the shame and guilt she believes caused it. The descriptions of the pastries and breads in this book are truly mouthwatering–I know I will go the rest of my life looking for the pastry crown filled with warm chocolate and cinnamon. Sage attends a grief group and meets a retired teacher and beloved community member there, Josef Weber. Sage and Josef share stories, play chess, and form a friendship. So, Sage is shocked when Josef reveals a past he has spent his life covering up. Josef was a SS guard in the Nazi party, appointed to the Death Head unit at Auschwitz. Josef knows that Sage comes from a Jewish family and even though she is unobservant he asks something unbelievable of her: to kill him.
What Sage doesn’t tell Josef is that her grandmother, Minka, is a Holocaust survivor. Minka’s story and the fable she told herself and others to keep herself alive weave themselves throughout this story about family, secrets, the insidious nature of humanity, strength and forgiveness.
Writing a novel about the Holocaust with sensitivity and grace is no small accomplishment and Jodi Picoult has done it. With her engaging, character-driven writing style, Picoult pulls forward the same questions of moral ethics, choices and consequences that she has always done but never have the stakes been higher.
I finished The Storyteller in tears. I am curious to see what other readers think of this book. So far, Goodreads reviews have been positive, many readers citing it as Picoult’s best book in a while or her best so far. Book groups should gobble this one up. There is loads to talk about. The Storyteller is sure to shoot up the bestseller charts and I, for one, will be cheering for it.