Jodi Picoult was one of those names I’ve heard of but had yet to read anything by them. I had an opportunity to remedy that this summer. My local library was hosting a summer reading challenge and this year, they included a themed bingo sheet in addition to rating cards. I thought this was a brilliant idea! For me, these “read all you want/can” challenges are sometimes overwhelming. So many books! Where do I start!? The bingo sheet added structure and served as a guideline. There where suggestions like “Biography/Memoir” or ‘Adapted into a Movie”.
Enter Picoult. I was browsing the audiobook section when I came across The Storyteller. Primarily set in present day, the novel switches back and forth between now and WWII. At first, I thought it would fit the “Set During a War” bingo category but, I wasn’t sure the time switching made it an appropriate choice. Instead, I used a rating card.
Overall, I was impressed with the intricate weaving Picoult accomplished with the stories of Sage and Josef, and at times, Ania. Sage uses the aftermath of an accident as an excuse to hide from the world, working as a baker. She is cynical and extremely self-critical, until she meets Josef. He is a beloved town elder and an easy friendship forms between him and Sage. Josef, though, harbors a dark secret as well.
One day, Josef confides in Sage. He reveals that he was a Nazi officer, wracked with guilt for his crimes. He sought Sage out to seek forgiveness, given her Jewish background. What follows is a fantastic journey of struggle and acceptance interspersed with Ania’s dark fairy tale. Picoult flawlessly combines past and present, creating a story so haunting and vivid, I gasped for breath when it was over. The extent of her research is impeccable. The details are hard to swallow at times, but Picoult has written about one of the darkest moments of history with taste. It’s a lengthy endeavor but well worth it.
Rating: **** (4/5 stars)