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BOOK: The Storyteller
Author: Jodi Picoult
ISBN: 978-1-444-76666-0
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton Ltd
Date Published: 2013
Reviewer: Vincent de Paul

Meet Sagele (Sage) Singer, a young woman who works at night and fornicates during the day with a married man, Adam. She loves Adam, a funeral director whom she fell for during her mother’s funeral. She gets angry when Mary, an ex-nun, flagellates her for her adultery. But, NEWS FLASH: This is not a romance story per se. It’s about the Holocaust.

Sage’s nana is a survivor, and to live happily Minka decided to block everything about the WW2. She does not want to talk about it, or even remember to remember. Nonetheless, the Holocaust is a social scar that will never be healed despite the passing of time. 

Sage is grieving her parents’ death, and from her grieve support group she meets Josef Webber, a 95-year-old model citizen who becomes her friend only to make a bizarre request – “Kill me,” he asks of Sage. He rephrases and says, “Help me die.” Why? Josef Webber is not the model citizen everyone thinks; he is a murderer, a WW2 Nazi officer who just won’t die as though living forever is the punishment he gets for participating in the killing of six million Jews. Torn between betraying her ‘friend’ (reporting him to the authorities) and committing the crime, Sage is at war with herself. 

Sage is not a religious person, but her family is die-hard Jewish. However, her morals and beliefs clash with her principles; and in the end she makes the right decision – follow her principles and breaks it off with Adam. 

This story is one of a kind; it has a myriad of themes: religion, faith (though not extensively addressed), social life, the Holocaust, war, relationships, etc. The flashbacks are awesome, and the novel within a novel idea is really intriguing. It is a great story, though with its inadequacies.

While the ending is suspenseful, unexpected (Sage kills Josef Webber, whose real Nazi name is Franz Hartman, which is also a shock because he was impersonating his evil brother all along), and somehow what would have been done a long time ago, the book has its weaknesses: some plots are left hanging. The question of faith is ignored and religion propagated (we should see Sage and Mary pitted against their beliefs and faith), the grieve support group is fully forgotten only to be mentioned in passing towards the end, the Jesus loaf would have made a great story but it was left hanging, and the names of some characters are just so not thought out, ridiculous is the word. In addition, some areas are not well researched: in the military, you cannot have a commissioned officer demoted to a non-commissioned officer, as the author indicated that one of the characters was demoted from a lieutenant to a sergeant. Really?

All in all, Jodi Picoult is always a good read, and this was as entertaining as it was educative and moving.

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