‘The Storyteller': A book by the person who has mastered the art of Story-telling herself.

By  |  0 Comments

This book is not one of her trade mark sentimental family dramas. It is different. Grueling. There’s no trial. One third of it takes place seventy years ago. There is a Gothic fairytale embedded in it. It is not a usual Jodi Picoult novel. “This book actually began with another book – Simon Wiesenthal’s ‘The Sunflower’. In that book he recounts a moment when he was brought beside a dying Nazi, who wanted to confess and to be forgiven by a Jew. The moral conundrum in which Wiesenthal found himself has been the starting point for many philosophical and moral analyses about the dynamics between victims of genocide and the perpetrators… and it got me thinking about what would happen if the same request was made decades later, to a Jewish prisoners granddaughter”, said Picoult , when asked about where she got the inspiration of the novel from.


The story revolves around the life of the protagonist, Sage Singer. A twenty five year old who is scarred for life during an accident in which her mother expires. She is self-conscious about the scar across her cheek. She lives the life of a loner. She secretly blames herself for her mother’s death and as an outcome of her guilt she does not want to keep in touch with her family members. She happens to be involved in a sexual relationship with a married man, funeral director called Adam. But she is initially fine with the arrangement since she is able to live her life in solitude. Although Sage`s family is deeply Jewish, she refers to herself as an ‘atheist’. At the beginning of the novel we see that Sage had just begun attending a grief group, where she meets an elderly man, named Joseph. He was a long term German teacher at the high school. And had lived in the town, along with his wife, for about forty years. He was looked upon by many as an ideal citizen due to his community service.

Once Joseph and Sage become close, he trusts her with the horrifying secret of his past life. He was the Nazi commander in the Holocaust at Auschwitz concentration camp. He tells her he had committed terrible crimes and had been the cause of death of many innocent victims. Sage is torn between her fondness for the man and the cruelty he had inflicted upon the people of her kind. She leaves him. Being unable to decide what should be done she calls the local police department and gets directed to Leo Stein, the man who is in control of matters of the Holocaust. Leo, who is immediately attracted to Sages voice, tells her how difficult it could be to testify whatever Joseph was saying. He however has doubts regarding her story since it would be hard for anyone to believe that a Nazi would simply confess his crimes, 70 years later.

But the investigation is carried on nevertheless. Leo finds that no such SS guard by the name of ‘Joseph Weber’ existed. After being persuaded by Sage, he confesses that his real name was Reiner Hartman, who was indeed an officer at Auschwitz. The A series of events take place after that in order to recover detailed information about the crimes he had committed. Because she needed more evidence in order to fulfill his “request for suicide”. Leo tells him he will need to confess some of his personal crimes, an information that nobody else would have any access to.

Coincidentally it is found out that Sages grandmother happened to be a survivor of the Holocaust. Minka also happened to be a prisoner at Auschwitz. She delves into the past after a lot of coaxing and tells them the story of her teenage years being spent in Poland, moving into a Ghetto and then eventually landing up in Auschwitz. She also mentions about the story which she had continued writing throughout her stay at Auschwitz. And how an SS guard, named Franz Hartmann, had expressed interest in her story because it expressed his complex relationship with his brother, he also provided them with small comforts like warmth and food scraps in exchange of 10 pages of the story every day. However owing to the cruel turn of events Minka is exposed to the treachery of Franz’s older brother Reiner Hartmann, who murdered her best friend.

The climax of the story is unnerving and just when you think you have got it right and justice has finally been achieved, Picoult pulls her strings and shakes the ground beneath your feet. The book takes you through an emotional roller coaster and it is impossible to put it down. What happens when the three stories converge? Does Sage forgive Joseph for the atrocities he had hurled against all of humanity and in particular Minka? Is Joseph able to attain his last wish? And most importantly, is death the ultimate path to peace? These are few of the many questions which bother you throughout this extraordinary novel. Some re answered and some are left for you to figure out on your own.