“The Story Teller” Book review by Gowry Paranee

Middle aged Sage Singer meets 90 year old Joe Weber, role model of a society, with too many medals under his belts for his service to the humanity in his little American town. They meet at a grief group in a small American town. Both licking their wounds, that refuse to heal with time. He regularly meets Sage Singer at the bakery she works. Sage Singer is a Grand- Daughter of holocaust survivor. She did not know what she was getting herself into when she befriended the frail old Joe weber. Joe Weber not only confides his heinous crimes that he has committed as an SS soldier in the concentration camps during the war but also requesting a favour from a Grand-Daughter of his former victim.  Ironically he compares himself to the “Wandering Jew” who was cursed by Jesus. Joe Weber beliefs he was cursed in a similar manner therefore he cannot die no matter what disease he contracts and what age he is. Will she fulfil his dying wish if she finds out who he really is? How would she re act to his request if she finds out her Grand-Mother Minka’s story.

Story Teller is a human story of survival under extreme circumstances. Story of life and death. 4 million people getting caught between life and death, life continuously tantalised them, beckoned them with open hands with a will to live, dreams and hope. Jodi Picoult has painted thousands of grim pictures of survival, courage, love, and bravery with her powerful words.

Whenever, I came across the holocaust documentaries on yesterday channel, I have always wondered why millions of people walked toward the death pit obediently as if they are taking a walk, contrast to the war documentaries of Sri Lanka. I now know the answer to that question. Self-preservation, there is another dimension to “survival of the fittest” Darwin’s theory. Sometimes you have to pretend dead to be alive.

The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult

The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult

It is story of young Jewish women trapped in the hands of the enemy in horrific Jewish ghetto of Lodz and then tossed around in various concentration camps where they were subjected to torture, starvation, and constant threat to kill by SS soldiers. However, against all odds many lived to tell the tale when they were freed by the British at the end of the war. There was light end of the tunnel for some and not for many. Many who didn’t survive had stories to tell and it is being told by the survivors. You could compare the situation with the Biblical flood and the Noah’s Ark. One orchestrated by the Nazi influenced by anti-Semitism, the other by nature both ruthless with its force.

Great thing about this book is that the reader gets to hear it all from the horse’s mouth. Both from perpetrators and the victims. What fuelled the Anti-Sematic notion/belief in Germany. Why did Hitler want to create pure race or so called Aryan? Why did he not think that they could not co-exists.

If you have read Anne Frank’s Diary you would know that it ends abruptly and would have wondered what became of her in the Autswitch when she and her family got caught. This book acts as a sequel in an independent way to that diary although it has been written by a fifteen year old in the secret Annex in Amsterdam.

There is no time limit to prosecute someone for murder and war crime. But it is not black and white. The author explains through the character Leo the Nazi hunter in America.  What if a holocaust victim comes across the perpetrator face to face with all the evidence? International jurisdiction could limit your efforts. Jodi Picoult explores all those issues in this book. Would there be any point in delayed justice? Is delayed justice equal to justice denied? How can you give a life sentence to someone who has one foot on the grave, what purpose would it serve? In case if they have lived with guilt and remorse all their lives would it have amounted to punishment, can someone other than victim truly forgive or punish the perpetrator. All these questions provoke the reader’s thought in this book.

Juxtaposition is done with nested story technique in the book, which made it hard to navigate through the story in the beginning. However, the author has justified the nested story by unfolding an answer with it.

Now we have Neo-Nazi’s. What do we do with them? How do we behave around them? The author posed this question in this book and left it to the reader to ponder that further.

Often a good story would leave something out which could ignite a reader’s thought. Maybe to feed the google monster in you.

I have a book titled, “The Bread Baker’s Bible” on my book shelf. With it I have made many poppy seed bloomers, sesame studded grissini etc. for the last 10 years. In this book many of the character’s prime job is baking. I have learned so many more techniques and recipes from this novel than the Bread Baker’s Bible of mine. Sage Singer lives a life of a nocturnal by baking at night and sleeping in the day. Well suited job for an introvert with the scar on her face. She formed a relationship with a dashing handsome mortician Adam who also works on his own. He makes his bodies look dead gorgeous by styling their hair, stitching their lips together and puffing up their sinking eyes.

Sage Singer justifies her unconventional relationship with a married man; she comes up with her own analogy. There may be no rights and wrongs in this world but just perceptions.

During my journey through this book, I frequently laughed out loud because all these characters constantly cracking up a joke. It is full of American humour.

A wonderful historical novel.

– Review by Gowry Paranee

The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult

The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult

About the Authour: Jodi Picoult

Under the current political climate this book is probably the best book to read if you live in the UK. UKIP has won the European election, a right-wing party with its Anti-Immigration, Anti-European policies. If we come out of Europe we will be deprived of Human Rights Act 1998, which will be a disaster for asylum seekers and all the ordinary British Citizens. None of us won’t be able to take our cases to European Courts of Human Rights. If a government that is in power wants to repeal a legislation it can, if it wants to pass a draconian law against the outcry of the general public it still can, it can create a Hitler Regime or run a Gandhian government as it pleases. Sovereign government could do whatever they wish when they go solo.