Book Review: The Storyteller (Jodi Picoult).

After I read My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult, I wanted to read her other works. It is how I landed on this particular book. The Storyteller is a fictional novel based on true events. The story is set in two parallel times, one in the 2000’s in the US and the other during the Holocaust.

The story begins in America with Sage Singer. She is a baker who has isolated herself from the world after losing her mother. Minka, her grandmother, lives in an assisted facility. Sage has always got along well with her. She meets a 90-year-old local teacher, Josef Weber, at a grief support group. Both of them have a lot in common and form an unlikely bond. They become friends. One day, Josef reveals to Sage that needs her help. He wants her to help him die and wants her to forgive him; he was in the SS in the Nazi Regime.

The revelation made by Josef is actually where the story begins. Sage is Jewish though she has never been religious, her parents were Minka, her grandmother is a Holocaust survivor. Josef’s revelation completely shocks her. For her it is very personal; she contacts Leo Stein, an agent in the FBI in a justice division. He advises her to get more of the story from Josef. Sage, has never asked about her grandmother’s experiences before, but now she has to know.

Sage as a character is flawed. Some of her choices are understandable because she is healing, but you cant always justify her actions. She is messed up, which makes her feel real. Through Josef and Minka’s stories, she somehow finds herself. The present timeline is Sage understanding her grandmother’s history and Josef’s, trying to make sense of the situation. The past timeline of the novel focuses on Josef’s childhood during the Nazi days and how he ended up in the SS. The other half focuses on Minka, a teenager in Poland during World War II. This part of the book is especially difficult to read. It is so impactful, and it feels more horrible because you know it has really happened.

Minka’s life starts as a normal teen, then shifts to the ghetto and then to Aushwicht.
It is a fact that Nazis were bad but, as the story moves ahead, you realize it is not as black and white as you would like to believe. The story delves deep into the character’s heart and mind. Some things from the flashbacks of Josef’s past, don’t match with his present, and it is difficult to understand why. The little twist at the end, although shocking made complete sense. The story blurs lines between justice and punishments and forgiveness and mercy and morals. These characters constantly struggle with their choices except Minka because she is thrust into situations and trying to just survive.

The writing of this novel is emotional and in a way, unbiased. Like I said before, this novel makes you question things, and it isn’t simply black or white. Minka’s story is beautifully done. It is this part of the novel, that stays with you long after you are done reading. These ordinary people survived such horrible and dehumanizing circumstances; we can’t even begin to understand. I had to take breaks while I was reading this novel because it becomes too hard at times.

The Storyteller is a story that I feel everyone should read. It makes you question and understand certain things. It tries to stay as close to facts as possible, and I think it does that pretty well. The writing and the characters stay with you; it is an emotional and relevant story.

*Click on the book cover above to get a copy.

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Author: Aarti Athavle

Daydreamer - Writer - Bibliophile

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