Monday, August 7, 2017

The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult

Title: The Storyteller
Author: Jodi Picoult
Publisher: Atria
Release Date: February 26, 2017

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?

“The only monsters I have ever known were men.” 

I thought this book was great until I reach the end. 
Why did she have to finish the book this way?
I have so many issues with the end but it's so hard to discuss it without spoilers.  
So here it goes:

Going back to the storyline, It depicts the lives of several characters.

The main Players:

There is Sage Singer, who's still dealing with unresolved grief after the death of her mother three years earlier. She works as a baker and she works at night to avoid interacting with people. Her boss Mary, an ex-nun is sweet and a devoted Catholic. She cares for Sage and wants someone better for her than the man Sage is having a relationship with. Sage avoids people because she has a scar on her face. She doesn't have a good relationship with her two sisters. Her only relative she likes is her grandmother who is a Holocaust survivor.  

Minka is Sage's grandmother. Through flashbacks, we are privy to her life as a teenager/young woman during WWII. Her story is one of much suffering as a Polish Jewish girl living in a Germany occupied Poland. Despite continuing to lose friends, family, and her freedom, Minka fights to keep herself alive. Through her writing, a fictional tale about a girl name Ania and a young man named Alecks, she's able to distract herself and help others forget about the nightmare they were living.

Josef Weber, a very elderly gentleman who's loved by everyone. He befriends Sage. She meets him at her grief support group and later on at the bakery where she works at. Out of nowhere, Josef asks Sage to do the imaginable: Kill him.

Reiner and Franz. German brothers who become SS soldiers. Reiner who enjoys his job as an SS man. Franz who has a conscience but still performs his duties.

“Inside each of us is a monster; inside each of us is a saint. The real question is which one we nurture the most, which one will smite the other.” 

Leo, who's a government agent who tracks Nazis. He's devoted to his job. Leo has no time to date except when his overprotective Jewish mother forces him to.

Ania and Alecks are fictional characters created by Minka. First as a hobby later, as a tool for her survival. In the tale, Ania is the daughter of a baker (just like Minka) and Alecks is the newcomer who moves into her town with his younger brother.

“Whether it was power they sought, or revenge, or love-well, those were all just different forms of hunger. The bigger the hole inside you, the more desperate you became to fill it.” 

It was easy to care for Minka. Her section of the book was the best. I truly felt her pain and desperation. Every betrayal, hurt more than the first one. She lived in constant terror, not knowing what awful thing was going to happen next.

I didn't care for Sage. To me, she was whiny and immature. Her choice of a lover was a poor one. I didn't like that she never resolved her problems with her sisters. We are told that they say they love Sage and that they don't blame her for the accident but Sage doesn't believe them. Sage says they hate her but we never see their interaction except for one scene. I would have liked to see more development with this particular plot line. It also bothered me that one look at Leo and suddenly the sisters were totally taken by him.

Leo, I adored him. The funnier lines came from him. He made me laugh. He did have a black and white perspective. No gray for Leo. Which makes the ending even worse.

Reiner and Franz. I sure love to hate them both but we are shown rare glimpses of humanity. Much more pronounced in Franz than in Reiner. I think, Miss Picoult missed a good opportunity in not further changing Reiner.  From the very beginning, Reiner was the bad brother. He enjoyed causing pain but then he couldn't deal with all the things he was told to do and he started drinking to forget, so why not make him even more torn about his job?

“Power isn't about doing something terrible to someone who's weaker than you, Reiner. It's having the strength to do something terrible, and choosing not to.” 

Overall, I thought The Storyteller had a compelling plot. It raises questions of religion, grief, compassion, guilt, and forgiveness. I would love to see this book turn into a movie.

“Loneliness is a mirror, and recognizes itself.” 

Cliffhanger: No

4/5 Fangs

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