The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult – a review by Melissa

the storytellerI would follow Picoult anywhere, not literally, of course, but imaginatively. We have been to a school shooting, death row, a wolf pack in the wild, Nazi Germany – and she never lets me down. I wouldn’t ordinarily read about these things, but I know that in Picoult’s hands the subject matter will be dealt with tenderly, humanely and with a sense of realism.

She fully inhabits the most different types of characters and you believe them. In The Storyteller, she introduced me to whole new worlds. We follow the journey of Sage, a baker with a paralyzing scar and haunted by her past. A new friend gatecrashes her perfectly protected world and asks her for a favour of epic proportions, and the story begins. With interconnecting strands, Picoult weaves Sage’s grandmother’s story (a Jewish survivor), a 95-year-old ex-Nazi’s story and a fictional story written by the Storyteller.

I could never re-read this book, but I’m glad that I have read it. The writing is flawless, the plot is beautifully woven and the characters are delicious. There is even a recovering nun!

Picoult infused her characters with humanity – even when the inclination would be to create only monsters. And there are some monsters, unfortunately you can almost understand how they were created.

The book is full with the most profound of statements. Some of them cut through my heart:

“Loss is more than just death, and grief is the grey shape-shifter of emotion” (p. 8).

“…as I got to know her [the recovering nun], I’d realize that when she gardens, she never sees the seed. She is already picturing the plant it will become” (p. 15).

“Information in the ghetto travelled now like a wisteria vine: twisted, convoluted, and blooming from time to time with unlikely bursts of colour” (p. 236)

“Sometimes words are not big enough to contain all the feelings you are trying to pour into them” (p. 365).

This book took me on an emotional journey. Surprisingly, I did not cry the most during the torturous scenes, the frame-by-frame of the worst of human nature – but when she was liberated. This book made me ask some pertinent questions, reminded me that even though we have been here before, we still let unspeakable atrocities happen. Genocide didn’t only occur from 1939-45 to the Jewish people.

If I could, I would give this book a 6 out of 5 – it was that good. Just beware: it is also a hard read.

This is a powerful and riveting, sometimes gut-wrenching, read, in which the always compelling Picoult brings a fresh perspective to an oft-explored topic. Booklist

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