The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult
So I have to share that this book was made all the more special to me because my daughter and I actually attended a reading of this book by Jodi Picoult herself! I was of course expecting the worst (cynic that I am) — that it would be a mob scene and we’d wait and wait only to be at the back of a huge room at the Barnes and Nobles at Union Square where we’d only catch a glimpse. But I was instead so pleasantly surprised! It was so well-organized and easy and utterly enjoyable. Ms. Picoult is the ultimate storyteller! She read from her book with the expression of a closet actress, she told us stories about the Holocaust survivors she interviewed during her research, and she so gracefully and with such humor answered many questions from the audience about herself and her writing. She is a gracious presence — she is smart and funny and warm and the kind of person you just want to go out and have a drink with. I could have listened to her for hours! After she signed our book and chatted with us for a minute or two, we walked away and my daughter turned to me and exclaimed, “Mom, I’m so star-struck!” I have to admit: I was too!
BUT on to the the book… The book has an outrageously “Picoultian”premise. A young, reclusive woman named Sage who has lost her mother, attends a grief support group where she befriends an old man in his 90’s. This man, Josef, admits to her that he is a former SS guard at Auschwitz and asks her to help him die and to forgive him of his sins. What he doesn’t know is that Sage’s grandmother is a Holocaust survivor. In fact, Sage doesn’t really even know much about her grandmother’s history as her grandmother has kept the details to herself all these years. This book is the resultant telling of stories — the recounting of history — by the two characters who lived it. It is also the process of sorting out the ideas of evil and good as well as forgiveness and revenge. Can someone who has committed hideous deeds ever be forgiven? And by whom? Can a good person do bad things and get beyond that and/or compensate for it? What is forgiveness?
As usual, Jodi Picoult gives the various perspectives on the story in her brilliant way and has the reader pondering yet another enormous, controversial issue. This is why I love her writing and am already looking forward to her next book!