The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult

storytellerSage Singer is a young woman who is struggling to deal with the death of her mother. She joins a support group where she meets Josef Weber – a respected elderly man in the community. As a shy woman she doesn’t have or make friends easily and she strikes up an unlikely friendship with Josef.   As he is described, Josef comes across as one of those fragile older men that we gravitate towards. The grandfather you wish you still had, but he hides a terrible secret.  He was a Nazi SS guard in the 1940s during the Holocaust and he wants something from Sage: to help him die. That’s not all he wants, he wants her to forgive him

Sage is shocked and not sure what to do. Does she forgive him? Do as he asks and help him commit suicide or does she report him?  Sage is also aware that her grandmother, Minka, was a Holocaust survivor, but she never talks about it. Not even now when Sage asks her to.  When she eventually does Sage (and us) learns about Minka’s past – of a young girl who lived and survived the horrors of Auschwitz.

Reading Josef’s story gives you insight into what went on during that time from the perspective of an SS guard. What he had to do, what thoughts went through his mind while doing them and how it affected him. Reading his story made me almost hate the man who I previously found endearing. Can one person really redeem himself with a series of good acts after committing these horrible crimes against humanity? Can Sage forgive him on behalf of other Jews?

I was deeply immersed in reading Minka’s harrowing tale and it was my favourite by far.  It was a challenging read, an almost unforgiving story. For a young woman to lose all her loved ones in these circumstances and having to witness them.  How do you move on from that? It left me with many emotions: anger, disbelief and tears. Lots of tears.

Jodi Picoult is known for writing about moral dilemmas and even though I haven’t read any of her novels in a while, she remains one of my favourite authors. When I got back into reading more regularly a few years ago, Picoult’s books were the ones I picked up most often. Although I’m not familiar with her recent books, reading The Storyteller just reminded me why I loved this author’s writing.

As a fan of fiction about WW II, I loved this novel. I think this is my favourite book I’ve read so far in 2014. I was gifted this book by my friend Rean while I was at home recovering from surgery and I must say that this book was the perfect read. Reading Minka’s pain made me forget my own, so thank you Jodi for the perfect escape. I found myself thinking about her story long after I finished the book,  that’s the power of a good book.

Have you read The Storyteller? Do you think one person can forgive on behalf of others?

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