The Storyteller By Jodi Picoult
I take this break from the regularly scheduled 100 books in order to write this review. I read my first Jodi Picoult book when I was 13 years old, My Sisters Keeper was on the summer reading list going into 9th grade and I remember sitting on my lounge chair outback and sobbing over the ending. Since that day I have read each of Picoult's 20 books and when I heard that another one was out yesterday I took a break from my 100 book project and had to read this. I am so very glad that I did.
The Storyteller is about a girl named Sage Singer, she lives in a small town in New Hampshire and works at the local bakery as their bread and pastry chef. At the very young age of 25 she has lost both of her parents and is attending a grief group every week to come to peace with the loss. While some people have scars on the inside of their mourning, Sage is left with a long vertical scar from her eyebrow through her cheek, a remnant of the car accident that took her mothers life and stole her vanity. Sage was never an outgoing people person, but since the accident she has taken to staying in her home and baking the bread for the bakery throughout the night.
Then one week, her friendless situation changes, a man from grief group named Josef comes into the bakery one night right before closing. She tells him that he must stay and finish his coffee while he waits for the bus to come and collect him. Even though it is after business hours Sage finds herself letting Josef stay each and every night and date by date Sage finds herself getting into a sort of friendship with this 95 year old man. He is beloved by the entire town, was the German teacher at the high school, reffed little league, she finds him to be harmless and for the first time since the accident feels like someone likes her for her company and isnt nervous about her scars.
That is, until Josef tells her that he must confess something and he must ask the biggest favor of his entire life. Sage hesitantly agrees and is shocked to learn that Josef was a Nazi in the second world war and he has come to her to ask for help in dying. Sage has never considered herself religious, but her parents were both extremely jewish, both sisters had bat mitzvahed, and although it was rarely talked about, her grandmother Minka was a survivor of the holocaust. Josef has come to her seeking forgiveness and The Storyteller makes the reader question whether several years of horrible crimes can be over-shined by years of atonement and good deeds. Sage now has to make the decision of what to do with this information while contemplating the fine line between mercy and murder.
Let me say this now... This is by no means a typical Picoult novel. Her books, as far as I can remember, always involve chapters and chapters of court litigation, that is not the case when it comes to this novel. Instead we are given heart breaking stories of the concentration camps and how Minka suffered during the war. We are given chapters and chapters of Sage coming to terms with the grief of losing both of her parents at such a young age and feeling like with her scar no one can truly love her. We are also faced with chapters and chapters of tender moments between people in Sage's life who have overlooked her scars, both physical and mental..
I felt a real person connection to this book because I am a practicing Jew. I found myself humming along when Sage would talk about Shabbat services. I found my mouth watering as she talked about making the challah with her grandmother that had been passed down for generations, and most of all I felt myself crying along while reading the horrors of what had happened to Jewish people during the war.
This was not an easy read by any means, but I found myself devouring every single word and staying up until almost 3 am needing to finish it. I suggest this read to anyone who can understand the ache in your gut that comes with missing someone and the thrill in your heart when you realize that you will live and love again. This is a fantastically heart wrenching book and I am very grateful to Picoult for writing it. I shall say an extra prayer at Shabbat services on Friday, because these characters have now stolen a place in my heart that is not likely to fade away anytime soon.