The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult
2013 Recorded Books
Read by Mozhan Marno, Jennifer Ikeda, Edoardo Ballerini, Suzanne Toren, and Fred Berman
Finished on May 13, 2016
Rating: 4.75/5 (Fantastic!)
Jodi Picoult's poignant #1 New York Times best-selling novels about family and love tackle hot-button issues head on. In The Storyteller, Sage Singer befriends Josef Weber, a beloved Little League coach and retired teacher. But then Josef asks Sage for a favor she never could have imagined-to kill him. After Josef reveals the heinous act he committed, Sage feels he may deserve that fate. But would his death be murder or justice?
I love Jodi Picoult's books, but with alternating POVs and time periods, I should know better than to listen to them on audio. One time period in particular was so out of place, I found it disruptive to the flow of the story. In the print edition, varying fonts for each point-of-view, as well as chapter headings with a character's name, help make the transition between narratives much easier. Unfortunately, these cues are not available to the audio listener. However, all complaints aside, the further into the story I progressed, the more I realized that this book is well worth listening to. The chapters focusing on Minka's story were particularly moving and I found myself deliberately taking my time in order to savor the last section of the book.
As with many works of historical fiction, The Storyteller has inspired me to read more about the camps. There's a new book out by Sarah Helm called Ravensbruck: Life and Death in Hitler's Concentration Camp for Women. After listening to Minka's story in Picoult's novel, I felt drained and heartbroken for all those who suffered in the camps, so maybe reading about the actual accounts of the horrors that took place would be too sad and depressing. I'm also interested in The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness by Simon Wiesenthal. In an interview with The Washington Post, Picoult explains how she came to write The Storyteller:
It began with another book, “The Sunflower,” by Simon Wiesenthal, who was a concentration camp prisoner. He was called to the bedside of a dying Nazi officer who wanted to confess what he had done and be absolved by a Jew. There have been a lot of arguments and discussions by philosophical and religious leaders about whether Wiesenthal did the right thing, which was not to forgive this Nazi. He says: “It is not my place. I am not the one he committed the wrong against. Those people are dead, and he can’t ever be forgiven.” What if that same kind of request was made not during the Holocaust but 70 years later? I began to come up with this fictional account of a reclusive woman, Sage, who bonds with an elderly man in her home town, who is everyone’s favorite citizen. He’s been a teacher, a Little League coach. Then he confides his secret.
In spite of my complaints about the flow of the audio version, I thought this was an outstanding novel. I like that it was a departure from the author's usual contemporary stories and believe it's her only work of historical fiction. This is one that was impossible to put down and which I won't soon forget. It is also one that I plan to read again. Fans of All the Light We Cannot See, The Nightingale, Everyone Brave is Forgiven, and City of Thieves won't be disappointed.