Author: Jodi Picoult
Provided Synopsis: 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 changed, and the integrity of the closest friend she’s ever had clouded, Sage beings 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?
Review: This book was not what I expected it would be, and it left me speechless. From the premise, I had been under the impression that this would be a story of a young woman who forms a friendship with an elder man, only to have that friendship deepen to such a level that he is able to confess his deepest sin to her and ask for the forgiveness and mercy he seeks. I thought that Josef Weber, the old man, was to be the storyteller. Instead, what I got was an incredibly complex story that was not only Josef’s, but also belonged to Sage and to the history of her family and her people.
The Storyteller is a book that travels to the past. Josef Weber tells Sage the details of his past, and Sage’s grandmother also tells the story of her past. But what I took to be the true story is the one that was scatted throughout the novel: the story of Ania. It is a written piece of fiction that is allegorical as it looks into the line between good and evil. The characters in Ania’s story ask the question of whether or not a man is born evil or if he is born good; it wonders if it is possible to be both once circumstances float a life down an unexpected path. This allegorical story commentates on the horrific tales Sage hears about those who worked for the SS and were prisoners of war during the Holocaust. Does Ania forgive and grant mercy to a man who is thought of as evil? In comparison, can Sage grant the wish and forgiveness that Josef seeks now that she knows the truth of his life?
Despite being exasperated with Sage at the beginning of the story I began to empathize with her plight as the story progressed. As she learned new information from the past, so did I. I began to wonder what I believe Jodi Picoult is trying to get her readers to consider: when does one deliver punishment, mercy, or forgiveness? How does the story end to allow us to move on?