The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult

Cover via Goodreads.

Cover via Goodreads.

Rating: 5 stars.


I don’t curse. When I finished The Storyteller, I couldn’t craft a coherent sentence. I just sat and thought to myself: damn.

Sage Singer bakes bread. It’s therapy for her, in addition to the grief support group she attends after losing her mother in a car crash. One day she befriends Josef Weber, a fellow support group goer and an elderly man who is a cherished member of their small town community. Sage soon realizes that Josef doesn’t just want her bread: he wants her to kill him. She learns that Josef has committed a terrible crime against humanity and that someone in her own family has suffered at the hands of the Nazis. With this connection in mind Sage struggles to make the right choice. Is it her to duty to deliver him from his wicked past, or would she bringing herself down to his level by doing so? Why is it so hard to find out what’s right, when faced with someone who’s done so much wrong?

Jodi Picoult is a master storyteller. For me, the most salient part of The Storyteller was when Minka, Sage’s grandmother, shared her story about surviving Auschwitz and the other horrors she endured during the Holocaust. Picoult’s writing is so welcoming, beautiful, and piercing that you feel your heart break into another piece every time you flip a page. There’s no doubt that what happened to the Jews was horrifying and a testament to the monstrous side of mankind, but when you read Picoult’s work, you don’t just think “wow, this is horrible” – you feel it, and you remember it, and you resolve that such crimes should never be allowed to happen again.

I feel like a lot of the criticism Picoult receives from the literary community stems from the argument that she takes controversial topics and uses repetitive plot structures to exploit them and sell bestsellers. I also feel that The Storyteller is the perfect book to counter that argument, because even though Picoult does use a somewhat similar formula in her novels (family issues, court cases, etc.) she is in no way exploitative, especially with this book. Like she does in her other novels, in The Storyteller she takes difficult topics like forgiveness, trauma, and justice, and makes you feel every blow through her three-dimensional characters. From Sage’s scar-induced reticence to Josef’s incisive inner turmoil, I rode a gamut of emotions expansive enough to cover an ocean.

The Storyteller is Picoult at her prime. She puts a human face on the Holocaust, a tragic, beastly, and horrendous event. She deftly delves into the human psyche and makes you think about what it means to be a survivor, a storyteller, a human.



Filed under 5 stars, Book Reviews, Books

19 responses to “The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult

  1. Hmm I’ll definitely take note of this one! I’ve read a few Picoult books before and I love them because as you say, she tackles big issues in a sophisticated and considerate way. Yes a lot do have a similar structure but that’s fine in my opinion, because when you break down books, don’t they all have a similar structure at the heart of most of them? As long as people don’t read all her books back to back there shouldn’t be a problem! 😛

    • Yes I agree, I feel like she and Sarah Dessen both have trademark plot/writing styles but they both produce such fabulous works time after time. I hope you enjoy this one when you get to it!

    • Trudy

      I agree. Critics are just being that — critical without a heart! BTW: Can anybody tell me what happened to Sage’s face. I know it was in there somewhere but I was so engrossed in the other story lines that I missed it!

      • Hi Trudy! I recall that Sage got her scar from the same car accident that killed her mother. Beyond that I don’t remember any specifics, sorry. I hope that helps!

  2. Livvy @Nerdy Book Reviews

    I’ve read a couple of Picoult novels and found both of them moving and equally delving into controversial horrors that make her books so riveting. Personally I think that she may have a similar structure, but each of her novels are different and represent different people and stories.
    I’m glad to hear you enjoyed this one so much and I look forward to reading it! 🙂

  3. Eileen Chen

    I loved Picoult’s books when I was younger but stopped reading them (because of the repetitive structure, actually) but your review makes me want to pick them up again.

    I also really liked Sing You Home and House Rules (though I never finished it).

    • I highly recommend giving her another try, even if it’s just this one! And Sing You Home is my favorite from hers actually (with this one coming in a close second.)

  4. Eileen Chen

    ALSO ALSO ALSO I finished House of Leaves! At first it was really hard to get through (because of the structure) but at the end I couldn’t put it down. Wow. (I don’t have a more coherent review than that.)

    • Oh and oh my gosh I still need to get to that! Your voice (er, internet voice) will hopefully pop into my head the next time I’m reserving books at the library…

  5. Okay, maybe I’ll try this one. It sounds (at least plot wise) something I could be interested in reading. ALSO DO I SEE ABOVE ME ANOTHER HOUSE OF LEAVES FAN!? Thomas have you read that? Do you love it!?

    • Roshni I highly recommend it! I think this is one of her better ones, at least in that more people would like it even if they aren’t huge Picoult fans. And no I haven’t read it, but now that I know both you and Eileen support it, it’s placed solidly higher on my to-read list…

  6. Well I was considering buying this last night. Now I’m going to 🙂

  7. I’ve read a few good reviews on Jodi’s latest. I can’t wait to pick it up.

    • Yeah, almost all of the reviews I’ve read of it have gushed about the book’s greatness. I can’t wait for you to pick it up either. (:

      • And I sure will once I find it in my country. However that’s probably an excuse, because I can get it on Amazon. I’ve been such a fan of Jodi Picoult, years ago and I think it’s time to revisit her writing!

  8. Hello, I’ve just listened to the book unabridged (I’ve very little time for reading, so get all good novels in audiobook format and listen to them whilst I spend 30 hours a week driving – very productive time!) and I’m questioning about Sage’s scar, I know it was her car accident, but there is nothing about the details of this, yet it plays a BIG detail throughout the book… yet there seems to be nothing there about the details of this scar or what/details/information/surgery appart from what I recall of her visiting Joseph (the nazi) in the hospital when his “suicide attempt”failed … the book said “I’d not been in a hospital for 3 years, and I hate the smell of them” but the details were that after that she was scarred, and her mother was fine, but died later of cancer.

    I too, need more information, perhaps I missed something? I’d appreciate another reader/listener filling me in to – or did Jodi Piccoult think this an unecessary accoutrement to the novel, and no further info was given, thanks, Lisa

    • Lisa, from what I recall I think you’re right in that Picoult thought it was “an unnecessary accoutrement” to the novel – my interpretation is that the scar set Sage apart from others physically and gave her a visible reminder of the accident… but I don’t think it played any bigger part than that.

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