Jodi Picoult tackles The Holocaust with THE STORYTELLER.
Without a doubt, this amazing, provocative, new novel by Jodi Picoult, is her best novel! I am still shaking my head in wonder at the beauty of it all.
The story begins in a small town in New Hampshire, where a young and very troubled woman, is a baker at a boutique bakery. Sage Singer recently lost her mother. She meets and befriends an 85 year-old man who is dealing with the loss of his wife. Joseph Weber was an SS Guard in Nazi Germany during the war, and, he is asking Sage to help him die. We discover that Sage’s grandmother is a Holocaust survivor.
THE STORYTELLER, is told in three parts. Part I is Joseph’s story. We meet Sage and learn Joseph’s secret. We also meet Leo Stein, who is Sage’s contact at Human Rights and Special Prosecutions (what is known as a Nazi hunter). Leo has to decide if Joseph Weber is indeed who he says he is.
We learn about Joseph’s childhood and how he was persuaded to join the Nazi party. I found myself underlining like crazy while reading this installment. The Holocaust has been written about often, but when I find new info, it sparks something inside me. We meet Joseph as a quiet and respectable, elderly, retired teacher. He is likeable. He tells how desperate the German people were for change as Hitler made his way onto the scene. The organization Hitler lead promised to get people back to work; they were going to “fix“ the broken country of Germany. Joseph tells of his relationship with his very different brother; Franz was a dreamer who mostly enjoyed reading and writing. He had no desire to “join up.” And then the real horrors take over the page as Joseph delves into his life within the Third Reich. He paints a picture of a man haunted by actions taken that took many, many innocent lives. A genocide of epic proportions as not seen before or since. And he is asking Sage Singer, whose grandmother is a Holocaust survivor, to help him die.
Part II is Minka’s story. Picoult makes us wait until page 196 to learn of Minka’s horrors in Auschwitz. Why I am drawn to this time in history, and the Holocaust especially, I do not know. But drawn I am. And the story of Minka so reminds me of the novel, SARAH’S KEY, by Tatiana de Rosnay. It begins with Minka speaking of her father who has a bakery in the small town of Lodz. Their family is just becoming aware of the chilling developments within the government. Minka, even then, is writing a story. This story will continue throughout the novel in segments that pepper each chapter. I knew there would be atrocities; unspeakable crimes , disturbing scenes, hideous and inhumane. How can anyone survive this torment? But what I could not have known is how accurate and life-changing this woman’s depiction of Auschwitz is. It is almost inconceivable that these crimes were perpetrated by people like Joseph Weber.
Part III begins the culmination. And delves into the moral dilemma that Sage is dealing with. ” When does a moral choice become a moral imperative? And where does one draw the line between punishment and justice, forgiveness and mercy?”
My daughter is visiting Poland this summer. She’s going to study businesses in conjunction with her Masters degree. Her last stop is Krakow. She’s booked a trip to Auschwitz. I am sending this amazing book with her. I only wish I could send myself.
Picoult spent emotionally grueling hours speaking with Holocaust survivors.
Many thanks to the extremely generous people at Emily Bestler Books; a division of Atria at Simon & Schuster. I loved this gorgeous book.