Out of the 23 books Jodi Picoult has published, The Storyteller takes you on a phenomenal journey. Sage works in a bakery in New Hampshire at night and sleeps during the day. Through the therapy group she attends after her mother’s recent death she meets Josef Weber. Josef is 95 years old and is a respected, well-known, retired German teacher and little league coach. Most nights Sage and Josef talk while she bakes bread for the next days sales. One evening while Sage is baking her bread, he asks her a rather distressing favour. To kill him. He admits to her that in a time gone by he was a SS Nazi officer, and Auschwitz guard called Reiner. He takes Sage and the reader on a shocking yet fascinating journey describing his, and his much gentler and sensitive, brother Franz’s youth. They were members of the Hitler Youth Group and he detailed to Sage how he came to be a high ranking officer and overseeing mass killings of Jewish in Poland alongside his brother Franz. Alarmed at the information thrown at her, Sage calls in help from an FBI agent who specializes in finding Nazi soldiers outside of Germany. The book covers the childhoods of Josef, and Minka who is Sage’s Jewish grandma. Minka tells her own story about her youth in a Jewish ghetto and her journey in a concentration camp. The truth that unfolds in the final pages of the book as to who Reiner truly is and his connection to Minka, Sage’s final decision about whether she will kill Josef or not, whilst tackling the very riveting and relevant topic of World War Two will leave your mind buzzing like a bee trying to get nectar from the sun, and leaving a tantalising taste in your mouth, desperate for more.
When weaving a basket the weaver uses many different pieces of material, of various sizes, shapes and stains to create something that intrigues you with all of the different layers, yet leaves you pondering how exactly did they do it. Jodi does just this, but with words. Within the The Storyteller the book does just as the title says, tells a collection of stories and details multiple flashbacks. The opening words of the novel is in italics, and tells a story of a of a young baker who’s town is haunted by something evil. These two or three page snippets of this story are scattered around the book. There is some inference to what these may be for, but not until the last chapter do you finally know the reason for this short story. This anecdote, along with the tale of both Minka’s youth and her growing up in a Jewish Ghetto and the description of Josef’s and his brothers youth growing up in Germany will leave you surprised, but very satisfied. The four different point of views and stories, along with the journey of Sage’s decisions adds many layers to the book and allows you to see everyone’s perspective and the reason behind why they may have the done the things they’ve done. After Minka shared her outstanding story she told Sage,“So you see, this is why I never told my story. If you lived through it, you already know there are no words that will ever come close to describing it. And if you didn’t, you will never understand.” This just shows the complexity of Minka’s stories. This complexity is what adds to the many many layers that The Storyteller brought.
Jodi Picoult tackled yet another heavy historic affair and created a fictional story whilst including non-fictional aspects in The Storyteller. Jodi Picoult even said “I write fiction and I can’t imagine the real stories they have lived.” The book is mainly centered around the Holocaust, and explains the moral responsibility behind being a non-practicing Jew and confronts many human rights issues. Even though Jodi is not Jewish, she does have Jewish heritage. By using her knowledge of growing up as a non-practising Jew and implementing that into The Storyteller she creates this world of fiction, that still is very relevant as the Holocaust is a very admissible part of history. By taking on such an eye-opening subject, the reader becomes aware, and starts to ponder on some of these social issues. It gets us thinking.Jodi always does this in her stories, but in The Storyteller she takes it one step further. Jodi unashamedly tells the stories of the horrific things done to Jewish people and the pain and struggle they experienced, just like this quote from the book states, “History isn’t about dates and places and wars. It’s about the people who fill the spaces between them.” Jodi describes the forgiveness, worry, bravery and questions our morality through the power of her words and through taking on such a historic event.
The plot in The Storyteller takes many twists and turns as I have already mentioned the interesting thing about the plot is that the transition between past and present is seamless and easy for readers to follow. She unwraps the layers of the varied stories exquisitely, especially where she uses foreshadowing to keep the reader enthralled. One foreshadow in particular that segwayed readers into an exciting and unexpected twist was “People are never who they seem to be”. This led to a shocking twist. When reading, it seems as though we are reading from the past when a character is talking about their story, yet it is smooth and coherent. Everyone knows that without a good plot line, with some surprise and wonder, can leave the reader bored and uninterested and the story without any structure. The plot in The Storyteller is definitely not this. The book his engaging and well put together. Many of Picoult’s books have the “I never saw it coming” aspect and as I have read her books before I suspected the plot twist that was coming. Every feature of Jodi’s plot is put together carefully, is conscientious and is very clever writing.
If you are ever in a library and lost like a fish out of water, then The Storyteller needs to be the one to take off of the shelf. It is the best book I have read because of the stories encompassed within stories and all of the layers this brings to the multiple stories, and adds to the overall story. Jodi confronts major humanitarian issues through her writing in tackling the raw affair of the Holocaust. She has related her fictional story to a non-fictional topic. This creates a sense of connection and emotion to an awful time in history, allowing her to create and deepen a bond between reader and text. Her plot twists add dimension and multiple surprises. Picoult beautifully crafts her writing to be a deeply emotional journey. This book is well worth the read.
Written by Meg Thomas