New book: The Storyteller, by Jodi Picoult ’87 (Atria)
The author: Picoult, the best-selling novelist, is the author of 21 novels, including My Sister’s Keeper, Nineteen Minutes, and Sing You Home. In an interview on her website, Picoult said that The Storyteller was inspired by The Sunflower, by Simon Wiesenthal, in which the author recalls that a dying Nazi wanted to confess to and be forgiven by him when he was a concentration camp prisoner.
The book: A lonely young woman, Sage Singer, befriends an elderly man, Josef Weber – a pillar in the community. He shocks her by asking her to kill him. She refuses but finds out why he made such a request: he confessed that he is a former Nazi guard. Singer, whose grandmother (Minka) is a Holocaust survivor, must grapple with the news. Part of the novel tells of her grandmother’s experience during the war. The novel explores evil, atonement, accountability, and forgiveness.
Opening lines: “My father trusted me with the details of his death. ‘Ania,’ he would say, ‘no whisky at my funeral. I want the finest blackberry wine. No weeping, mind you. Just dancing. And when they lower me into the ground, I want a fanfare of trumpets, and white butterflies.’ A character, that was my father. He was the village baker, and every day, in addition to the loaves he would make for the town, he would create a single roll for me that was as unique as it was delicious: a twist like a princess’s crown, dough mixed with sweet cinnamon and the richest chocolate. The secret ingredient, he said, was his love for me, and this made it taste better than anything else I had ever eaten.”
Reviews: “The Storyteller alternates Sage and Josef's present-day encounter with Minka’s history and with Josef's account of his wartime descent into inhumanity,” wrote the Tulsa World, which called the novel a “carefully constructed, multi-layered novel about the transformative power of storytelling.” Booklist wrote, “This is a powerful and riveting, sometimes gut-wrenching, read, in which the always compelling Picoult brings a fresh perspective to an oft-explored topic.”
Read more: PAW’s profile of Jodi Picoult.