The first Jodi Picoult book I read was The Plain Truth. The best one I read was My Sister’s Keeper (although that was hands down the worst movie adaptation I’ve ever seen. Ever.) The last Jodi Picoult book I swore I’d read was House Rules (a preachy and not-believable book about Autism).
When Simon and Schuster Canada offered me a review copy of her new book, The Storyteller, I hesitated. I’d sworn to myself that I wouldn’t read another book by this author, whose novels had become formulaic and predictable to me. But then I saw that she’d written about a Holocaust war criminal who asks a young Jewish girl to help him die, I was intrigued. I decided to give Ms. Picoult one more chance.
And, I wasn’t disappointed.
Sage Singer is a baker, a loner, until she befriends an old man who’s particularly beloved in her community. Josef Weber is everyone’s favorite retired teacher and Little League coach. 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 had been a Nazi SS guard. And Sage’s grandmother is a Holocaust survivor. How do you react to evil living next door? Can someone who’s committed truly heinous acts ever atone with subsequent good behavior? Should you offer forgiveness to someone if you aren’t the party who was wronged? And, if Sage even considers the request, is it revenge…or justice? (From Jodi Picoult.com)
What I liked: The subject matter was difficult, as the novel tells the tale of the Holocaust, both from a survivor’s and nazi SS officer’s point of view, but it was handled with great compassion and sensitivity. Picoult maintained her signature spare writing style, while partially departing from the formula that we’ve all become so used to. It’s obvious that she did extensive research into her subject matter, and truly became engaged in learning about the Holocaust, survivors, and war crimes. The characters were interesting and identifiable while still being original, and were connected with interesting twists. The flashback scenes were particularly well done, and I could have read an entire novel based on the story of those characters. A definite winner for fans of Jodi Picoult or those who like to read books about the Holocaust.
What I didn’t like: As usual, Picoult gets bogged down with too much detail and lingo. Her display of her extensive research tends to be a bit obvious, almost like she wants us to know how much she knows. After a while, this style feels lecture-y or alienating. The baking subplot was a bit derivative of novels that are food-focused (such as Chocolat), and was rather distracting from the primary themes. I also didn’t get the whole nun thing-it was just one two many facet to the story.
Recommend Factor: 7/10
Unputdownable Factor: 8/10