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Monday, 18 January 2016

The Storyteller

Author: Jody Picoult
Book: The Storyteller
Publisher: Atria

The Storyteller is a marvellous read that leaves you smarting at the end of the story: in typical Jodi Picoult style. Contrasting shades of past and present dovetail into a narrative that brings up a narrative from the ashes of the Holocaust, against the challenging life of a baker. Sage Singer, the protagonist, is a baker who meets an old man who is loved in their community. His name is Josef Weber, and he is a retired teacher and a former Little League Coach. He takes her through his story, and asks her for a favour: that she kill him. Sage refuses to do it, and he tells her his secret. He tells her that he was a former Nazi SS Guard in World War II.

Snaking through all this is another piece of the puzzle. Sage's grandmother survived the Holocaust.  
What follows is a powerful story that weaves in and out of episodes during the Holocaust, replete with the creativity of a Jewish girl who wrote and told stories to save herself. The narrative of the bakery is a powerful backdrop, and offers the lingering smell of nostalgia and trepidation, and the intricately woven truth that is presented from many sides. Sage's story leaves you with so many questions. What do you do if there is evil right next to you? How do you forgive someone who has done something terribly heinous? Is there atonement in good behaviour? Can you forgive, if you are not the one who is wronged? Is it for you to forgive? Is giving Josef death murder, or justice?


What leaves you most touched in her work is the way she allows for the morality, legality and the ethical dimensions of a real-life occurrence to become the centre of your thoughts. Jodi's writing style is enough to make you experience, and not just read. The many shades of trauma, remembrance, forgiveness, justice and crime leave you with a lot to think of.