Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Storyteller (Jodi Picoult)

I look forward to the yearly release of Jodi Picoult's books the way some people look forward to Christmas.  To me, getting her new novel fresh off the presses is more exciting than opening up a nicely wrapped gift.  I literally jumped up and down when The Storyteller arrived on my doorstep (I know...seriously).  Rarely does a Picoult book not make you think because she is not afraid in the least to tackle controversial issues.  Just as rarely does the Picoult book come along that I don't like (Unfortunately, I'm looking at you Sing You Home!).  Usually, I know I am looking at an automatic rating of 5 because Picoult does not just tell her stories...she involves the reader in ways that I've never before seen in a novelist.  I am not afraid to make a statement right here that The Storyteller is an instant classic and one that I am still thinking about in ways I never imagined.

The trademark of Picoult's novels is that her stories are told by various narrators, all of whom have an integral part in the book.  In her latest, we begin with the story of Sage, a baker so self-conscious because of facial scarring that she works overnight and has few friends.  One day, a 90-year-old-man, Josef, arrives in the bakery, and despite Sage's tendency to be antisocial, she and the man begin a friendship.  Josef is beloved in their small town, but he shocks Sage by showing her a picture of him as a young man in an SS uniform.  He asks her to help him die, but Sage reports him to the federal government instead.  At the same time, Sage's grandmother, Minka, finally tells her story of being held at Auschwitz so many years ago.  Josef's and Minka's stories inevitably come together like an unstoppable racing train.

Jodi Picoult did not in any way take writing The Storyteller lightly.  She conducted extensive research, including interviews with survivors and guidance by historians.  This book stays with you like few others, making you think twice when you're getting ready to complain about something frivolous in your life.