The Storyteller: Book summary and reviews of The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult

The Storyteller

by Jodi Picoult

The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult X
The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult
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  • Published in USA  Feb 2013
    480 pages
    Genre: Novels

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Book Summary

Some stories live forever...

Sage Singer is a baker. She works through the night, preparing the day's breads and pastries, trying to escape a reality of loneliness, bad memories, and the shadow of her mother's death. When Josef Weber, an elderly man in Sage's grief support group, begins stopping by the bakery, they strike up an unlikely friendship. Despite their differences, they see in each other the hidden scars that others can't, and they become companions.

Everything changes on the day that Josef confesses a long-buried and shameful secret - one that nobody else in town would ever suspect - and asks Sage for an extraordinary favor. If she says yes, she faces not only moral repercussions, but potentially legal ones as well. With her own identity suddenly challenged, and the integrity of the closest friend she's ever had clouded, Sage begins to question the assumptions and expectations she's made about her life and her family. When does a moral choice become a moral imperative? And where does one draw the line between punishment and justice, forgiveness and mercy?

In this searingly honest novel, Jodi Picoult gracefully explores the lengths we will go in order to protect our families and to keep the past from dictating the future.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

BookBrowse Review
"Jodi Picoult's The Storyteller is especially riveting. Picoult brings together a fine cast. Besides the two main characters - a 90+ year old man who, we know early on, has worn an SS uniform and a young woman badly scarred from an accident - we meet the woman's grandmother, a survivor of Auschwitz, a young man working to track down former Nazis, and many characters from the years of the war. Not only do we hear the story the old man tells but also the grandmother's story and, remarkably, a story the then young grandmother is writing herself. I did not find it "verbose" (Publishers Weekly) or filled with "unwieldy plot contrivances" (Kirkus) but, rather, a story that needs the complex narration to delve into the tangled lives of the characters." - Bob Sauerbrey

Other Reviews
"A powerful and riveting, sometimes gut-wrenching, read, in which the always compelling Picoult brings a fresh perspective to an oft-explored topic." - Booklist

"Picoult's formulaic approach to Minka's accounts of the Holocaust is a cheap shot, but the author appreciates Sage's moral bind. Nearly half of the book is devoted to a verbose, sad recounting of Minka's time during the war, but the real conflict lies within Sage. That conflict, and the complexity of a character who discovers herself through the trials of Josef and Minka, is the book's saving grace." - Publishers Weekly

"Readers will see the final twist coming far in advance due to unwieldy plot contrivances which only serve to emphasize what they are intended to conceal. Still, a fictional testament as horrifying as it is suspenseful." - Kirkus

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Reader Reviews

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Glia

Beautifully written; heartbreaking.
The Storyteller tells the stories of Sage, Minka, and Josef and how their lives are intertwined in this greatly written novel. The book has two timelines - the present and the time of the Holocaust. Sage, a baker whose grandmother was a survivor, got befriended by a former SS officer in hopes that she could forgive him and assist him to die (because she is the closest thing to a Jew around the area). I enjoy reading this 460p novel. It comes in 3 parts. If you want to read what happened to the Jews, how they were treated during the war, their lives before the war til the day of the liberation, go to Part Two. It is heartbreaking til the last page of the whole novel. It is beautifully written, I couldn’t say anything more.

Beckyh

Who can you forgive? Will you?
A story within a story within a story is the only way to quickly describe THE STORYTELLER. There are three storytellers -- Sage, a baker, who carries guilt and grief that consumes her; Josef, a beloved elderly man, who confesses to Sage and wants her to forgive and then kill him; and finally, Minka, a Polish Jew and resident of a concentration camp during WWII. I found Minka’s story compelling. Forgiveness is the overriding theme of the book. A sentence on page 450 states that you can only forgive someone the wrong they have done to you personally. Sage, Josef and, even Minka, need forgiveness, but who can forgive them and will they – that is the question.
I found this to be one of Picoult’s more challenging and thought provoking books. She is known for addressing timely topics with a twist ending. THE STORYTELLER addresses forgiveness in way that will give you pause for thought, especially the ending. Book groups will have a lively discussion of guilt and forgiveness.
5 of 5 stars

Cloggie Downunder

brilliant and inspired
The Storyteller is the twenty-first novel by award-winning American author, Jodi Picoult. In this thought-provoking novel, Picoult follows her usual format of narration by different voices, but adds an allegorical story written by one of her characters. Reclusive baker, Sage Singer is a young woman scarred by her past and the guilt she carries. Josef Weber is a well-respected old man, a favourite teacher with a shocking secret and a unique request for Sage. Leo Stein is a lawyer with the Department of Justice who hunts war criminals. Minka Singer is Sage’s grandmother and a holocaust survivor. With this cast of characters, Picoult crafts a superb tale that will have the reader engrossed to the very last line. She brings her story to a breathtaking climax that leaves the reader wondering what they themselves might be capable of. Minka summarises it well when she says: “…..there is good and evil in all of us. A monster is just someone for whom the evil has tipped the balance.” As always, Picoult’s research is thorough, wide-ranging and apparent in every paragraph and includes holocaust survivors, concentration camps, mustard gas, baking, death marches, Jewish customs, Polish ghettoes, vampire myths, plant poisons, Nazi hunters, war crimes and gas chambers. Her portrayal of the creation of an SS officer is illuminating. Picoult always presents the reader with at least one dilemma and is an expert at sparking consideration of all sides of an issue. This novel will have the reader thinking about war crimes, vengeance, justice, deceit, repentance, what acts can (or cannot) be forgiven and who has the right to forgive. The most common dilemma with a Picoult novel, however, is this: read fast to know what happens next; or read slowly to prolong the enjoyment. While there is plenty of horror and heartbreak in this story, there is also incredible compassion and kindness, a bit of Haiku and some humour. The Storyteller provides undiluted reading pleasure. Picoult is brilliant and inspired, as always.

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Author Information

Jodi Picoult Author Biography

Photo: Nina Subin

Jodi Picoult is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of twenty-five novels, including Small Great Things, Leaving Time, The Storyteller, Lone Wolf, Sing You Home, House Rules, Handle with Care, Change of Heart, Nineteen Minutes, and My Sister's Keeper. She is also the author, with daughter Samantha van Leer, of two young adult novels, Between the Lines and Off the Page. Picoult lives in New Hampshire with her husband and three children.

Author Interview
Link to Jodi Picoult's Website

Name Pronunciation
Jodi Picoult: pee-coh

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