Wednesday, 13 November 2013

The Storyteller

Author: Jodi Picoult
Genre: Historical Fiction (WWII)
Type: Hardcover
Source: Public Library
Pages: 460
First Published: February 2013
Publisher: Atria Books
First Line: "On the second Thursday of the month, Mrs Dombrowski brings her dead husband to our therapy group."

Book Description from GoodReadsSage 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?

My Review:  As my devoted blog readers know, I don't throw around a 5 star rating easily.  It is very rare when I find a book that seems to have it all -- set in an era that I'm fascinated with, characters who are believable, a plot that is well paced and enough twists to keep me riveted.  Generally, a book that I just can't seem to put down because it's just that good.

This book has all of those things.

I absolutely loved this book and can honestly say that it is the best book, so far, of 2013 for me.  That's saying a lot.

Jodi Picoult and I have not always seen eye to eye on her books in the past so I wasn't chomping at the bit to pick up this book as soon as it hit the shelves.  I'm happy to say that Ms Picoult surprised me.  I found this to be the best book by this author that I've read so far.  She not only deals with a serious and extremely emotional time but she uses her usual knack for giving her readers questions to think about  -- in this instance, questions regarding forgiveness, justice and atonement.

I found this book much more well-rounded and, I guess the word I'm looking for is bigger than her other books.  There were many more layers to this book than the other books of hers that I have read over the years.  I love that there wasn't a court room scene (as was the case of several of her other books that I have read) which becomes formulaic and a bit boring, if I'm being completely honest.  I have not loved all of her books but she has always had something about her writing that was compelling.  Her skill as a writer comes through in full force with this book.

I found it to be a raw and emotional look at the atrocities of WWII but done via different characters' perspectives.  I found it to be very thought provoking.  While I did find the big twist about halfway through a little predictable it didn't detract from me thoroughly enjoying the rest of the book.

One of the aspects of the book that I loved were the characters.  They were so multi-dimensional and Picoult uses different perspectives -- Jewish and German -- to give the reader a very different look at WWII.  Not all Jews were victims and not all Germans were murdering Nazis.  I had never really thought that there were shades of grey within the Holocaust.  It was always much more black and white in my head.

This different way of looking at the characters, as not clichéd good and bad, made me think.  If people did horrific things in the past then turned their lives around and did numerous good deeds, does this erase or provoke us to forgive their past faults?  Does our past dictate who we have to be in the future?  Can we honestly change and redeem ourselves?  Who can offer us that redemption? 

So many questions with some not so easy answers.

If I had to nitpick I'd have to say that there is one thing that I could have done without in the book.  It was an allegorical story (which I won't divulge here).  When it first began I was a little confused about the topic and how it fit into the overall storyline.  It was placed into the main story intermittently and I feel it took up time that I would have preferred to be dedicated to the main storyline.

For this review, I didn't get down into the main plot for fear of divulging too much of the storyline.  All I can say is that I highly encourage readers to pick up this book.  It will move you, make you mad, touch you, make you think and hopefully help you to never forget what happened.

My Rating: 5/5 stars

Favourite Quotes:
- "The Priest said, 'What he did was wrong.  He doesn't deserve your love.  But he does deserve your forgiveness, because otherwise he will grow like a weed in your heart until it's choked and overrun.  The only person who suffers, when you squirrel away all that hate, is you." (p 451)

- "Forgiving isn't something you do for someone else.  It's something you do for yourself.  It's saying, 'You don't get to trap me in the past.  I am worthy of a future.'"

- "That person, he is someone I like to think I have never been.  But this isn't true.  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." (p 111)

- "Power isn't doing something terrible to someone who's weaker than you, Reiner.  It's having the strength to do something terrible, and choosing not to." (p 146)

- "How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world." ~ Anne Frank - 'Diary of a Young Girl'


Anonymous said...

Completely agree-I loved this book!! Reading your favourite quotes makes me want to read it again

Laurie@The Baking Bookworm said...

I glad I'm not alone in loving this book. There are certain books where I just love writing down quotes -- 'The Fault in the Stars' and 'Wonder' are two other books that I love to quote. :)

Denise said...

I'm reading this well written book right now. I can barely stand to put it down. One you might want to add to your review list on the WW11 topic is "Those Who Save Us" by Jenna Blum. It is also beautifully written.

Laurie@The Baking Bookworm said...

Denise -- "Those Who Saved Us" has been on my TBR list for quite some time. Too many books, so little time. I'll push it up further to the top of my list. Thanks for the reminder!

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