Synopsis (From GoodReads):
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?
Review:I'm going to be honest, I picked up The Storyteller, by Jodi Picoult, by (a happy) mistake. I thought this was a book that one of my friends recommended to me. It has all the elements of a story that she would rave about: WWII, a gripping story told from several viewpoints, and baking! I loved every page of this book. However, when I went to thank my friend for the suggestion, she didn't know what I was talking about! So it must have been fate that lead me to discover this book. Whether by accident or providence, I'm glad I read it.
The novel isn't just about a single storyteller, but about several. In fact, I would say that the author makes the point that everyone tells stories to themselves (or others) to justify decisions they make in life. Is Sage really a bad person for having an affair? She tells herself she would probably be alone otherwise because she has a major scar on her face. Is that it, or is the guilt she feels over an accident actually causing her to feel she doesn't deserve love?
I love how there are countless other people in this book who are playing the rationalization game. There is the bakery owner who uses questionable publicity to drum up business, the FBI agent who uses his (very noble) work to avoid relationships, and the Nazi who says he was just following orders to excuse his crimes.
The book goes into very realistic detail about the Holocaust. If you find this topic to be too much, you may want to avoid this book. But I felt that the author handled the topic with a great deal of restraint. She didn't try to be gruesome in order to sensationalize. The details she gave were needed to understand why the Nazi said he deserved to die and to pose the question, can his actions ever be forgiven?
There are so many elements to the book that I found created a complex structure that made for a satisfying read. There is the question of forgiveness. Should one be forgiven if they haven't really taken responsibility for their actions? The book also looks into how different Holocaust survivors dealt with their horrific experiences. Many chose not to talk about that time to anyone. Others felt it was their responsibility to tell people, lest we forget. Both approaches have their merits. I suppose that one of the main points of the novel is that each person has their own individual story. It's what makes us unique and valuable to the world.
Release Date: February 26th, 2013
Source: Public Library
Format: Hardcover Book
Recommendation: A gripping story of loss, survival, and perseverance. This book has depth and texture that will have you thinking about it for weeks afterwards.