Posted by: michelle @ books my kids read | June 17, 2013

The Storyteller – keeping history alive

I finished this book a few weeks ago but recently wrote a review to be included in our temple newsletter. I highly recommend this book.

How do you forgive someone who has committed a horrendous crime? A war crime against a family member and a war crime against a race? Can you really forgive someone if you are not the actual party who was wronged? Is forgiveness yours to give? These are some of the themes that Jodi Picoult tackles in her latest book, The Storyteller.

For those unfamiliar with her work, Jodi Picoult likes to address big topics – school shootings, complicated medical procedures, custody battles – and turn them into best-sellers. In her latest novel, she takes on the Holocaust from the perspectives of a relative of a survivor, a survivor, an SS guard and a Nazi hunter. She manages to do this without turning anyone into a caricature. The story is powerful and haunting and demands to be read.
Sage Singer is a loner. She is physically and mentally scarred and still reeling from the death of her mother to an accident of some kind. She befriends Josef Weber, a retired teacher and little league coach who is beloved by her small community. One day, Josef shocks her by asking her to kill him and then revealing that he was a Nazi SS guard and killed more people then he could possibly count. What he doesn’t know, is that Sage’s grandmother is a survivor of Auschwitz and Sage is so startled by the request that she contacts the FBI to make them deal with the war criminal.
What makes this book so remarkable is not Sage’s story and her attempts to grapple with forgiving or condemning this man, but rather in the stories that both Josef and Minka, her grandmother, tell of their experiences during the war. Josef tells of how a young boy could become a Nazi. How a boy who was always in trouble suddenly found a way to outshine everyone else. How brutality became a way of life. Minka tells how she managed to survive when all around her were dying. How a story that she began before the war even impacted her ultimately saved her life. 
In the telling of their stories, Jodi Picoult managed to keep the reality of the atrocities alive. There were passages of this that were incredibly painful to read, but the story must be told and retold lest anyone forget.

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