As you all know, Picoult is one of my favorite authors, and The Storyteller has been on my TBR for quite a while now. I think the first obvious question that came to my mind was, who is the storyteller? However, as each page was turned, I realized there was more than just one- something I should have seen coming, being a Picoult novel, but I was too engrossed to even realize it.
Sage Singer is a baker at Our Daily Bread with a strong case of survivor’s guilt. Facially and mentally scarred by the accident that eventually took her mother’s life, Sage prefers to keep to the shadows. As a descendant of Jews (though she’s renounced her religion) who endured (or succumbed) to the Holocaust, she has carried on their traditional bread making and baking using recipes passed down from her family. One afternoon near closing time, a little old man is chatting with the bakery owner (a reformed nun, hence the clever shop name), and Sage recognizes him from her grief support group- Josef.
Josef Weber (also known as Reiner Hartmann) is a ninety-five year old grandfather figure in the community. He worked in the school system, coached T-ball, adored his late wife, and could often been seen about town walking his Dachshund, Eva. He befriends Sage, and they find that the pasts they’ve omitted from conversation come bubbling to the surface. Soon, they are comfortable confidants, until Josef asks the impossible of her, revealing a shameful secret. Unsure how to handle the new burden of Josef’s admission, Sage delves into the past to find out what to do in the present.
Sage’s grandmother, Minka, is a survivor in more ways than one. Sage has been careful not to pry into her past, but Minka may be able to help Sage decide what to do about Josef, if she can bear to let her memories resurface. With some careful prodding, Minka shares not only the terror of German occupation and her horrific experience in Auschwitz, but also the story that saved her life and gave hope to many others.
As I’ve said a million times, Picoult hooked me in the very beginning of the novel, and kept me turning the pages to find out what would happen to all these characters. Using a variation of her traditional multiple-POV style, Picoult gives each character a chance to tell their story. I have read many World War II novels, and not a single one is easy to fathom- The Storyteller is no exception. The brutality, starvation, and exploitation of innocent men, women, and children is described in sinister detail. I found that though I kept turning the pages, it was difficult to read much in one sitting due to the depressing content.
When I finally reached the conclusion, I did guess what would happen, but I was never confident in my assumption. So this time around, Picoult didn’t completely dumbfound me. Even so, it’s a great novel, and I enjoyed the conclusion. I would certainly recommend it to Picoult, historical fiction, and WWII buffs alike.