And oh what a storyteller Jodi Picoult yet again proves herself to be. If you are ever in need of a meaty story, filled with unforeseen plot twists, complex characters and ethical dilemmas spanning all the shades of gray, all you need to do is pick up one of her wonderful tales. I am a bit proud of myself though because I figured out the big one on page 313, a full 147 pages before the end. And if you've read any of Picoult's other titles, you understand that this is a big deal. I don't know why, but when I read the words, "Hanging on the back of the chair was a woman's cardigan sweater", the answer became completely clear.
The Storyteller is really about several different storytellers and in true Picoult form, each narrator has his or her own font to help us decipher who is taking the lead at the moment. The stories on the surface are really all quite different, but at their core, each carries a common theme, reinventing yourself through the falsehoods you create in your mind. The main character, Sage Singer, tells herself that she is not worth loving due to a horrendous scar on her face and an introverted personality. Her grandmother, seeks to shroud her true experiences as a prisoner at Auschwitz, in the guise of a fairy tale that would bring even the brothers Grimm to shame. Josef, the former SS officer, feels such shame over his own part in the horrors that he passes along to Sage his story of guilt as a plea to convince her to help him end his own life. The final narrator in this tale is Leo, a lawyer for the Department of Justice, who lets himself believe that his life is justifiable only by the work he does seeking to right past wrongs.
I must admit, I have read many books about the Holocaust, but this is the first time that I truly felt immersed in the horrors of the concentration camps. I don't know if it was because of the personal voice behind Picoult's words or if it was the fact that the story was told from various perspectives interspersed amidst the present, but whatever it was, I am still reeling from the feelings that were evoked. What is more important here is not just relating the story, but seeking retribution or forgiveness depending on whose voice was coming through on that page. Forgiveness is a very difficult thing to really understand and enact. It's often times just as hard for us to ask forgiveness as it is for us to forgive. Mary, a former nun who has befriended Sage, has this inspiring piece of advice:
"... forgiving isn't something you do for someone else. It's something you do for yourself. It's saying, You're not important enough to have a stranglehold on me. It's saying, You don't get to trap me in the past. I am worthy of a future." -pg 451
Wow. I've heard time and time again how your emotions are something you control, "you're only as happy as you make your mind up to be" and all that, but I had not really thought about forgiveness as a personal gift as well, but how true it is! Think about the grudges you have held. They often times do you more mental and physical harm that they do the person you hold them against. Instead of stewing in your anger, you should give yourself a break and release yourself from the pain. Interesting...
I don't' really want to get into too much more detail for fear of giving you too many clues as to what twists to expect when you read The Storyteller yourself (because you should and you will), but I will leave you with another thought from the book about storytelling or rather the lack thereof. I don't know why it spoke to me, but make of it what you will:
"What is the point of trying to put down on paper emotions that are too complex, too huge, too overwhelming to be confined by an alphabet?
Love isn't the only word that fails.
Hate does, too.
And hope. Oh yes, hope.
So you see, this is why I never told my story.
If you lived through it, you already know there are no words that will ever come close to describing it.
And if you didn't, you will never understand."
Perhaps this is true, but Jodi Picoult once again establishes the fact that she is a master storyteller by coming very close to it.