I've read many of Picoult's books and generally enjoyed them. She is a talented writer who knows how to put together a compelling story usually involving a moral dilemma, with believable and well detailed characters, and a plot that moves along quickly. However, after a while, the books seemed to be all a bit similar to me, and I tired of them. Fortunately, The Storyteller is a big departure from Picoult's usual novel formula, so that in itself was interesting to me.
The five different stories/viewpoints that are intertwined in the book are:
- Sage Singer, a young woman who is a baker, with a tragic past she is struggling to come to terms with, meets an older German man, Josef Weber, in a grief counseling group
- a fairy tale like story about Polish vampires
- Minka, Sage's grandmother, and her experiences in the ghetto and concentration camps
- Reiner, an Nazi SS officer
- Leo, the Office of Human Rights and Special Prosecutions lawyer, whose job is tracking down former Nazis and bringing them to trial
The different stories are given extra emphasis by different typesetting, which is necessary to help the reader keep everything straight.
Once you get past the initial bombardment of information in the beginning of the book, the plot gets moving and Picoult succeeds in putting together a moving story about the holocaust, as well as a thriller about the hunt for an ex Nazi, combined with a bit of moral examination of the possibility of forgiveness. Does it sound like there was a lot to take in in this book? There was. In my opinion, it tried to do too many things at once, and left a lot of potentially interesting territory unexplored, not to mention many side characters that seemed neglected (Sage's sisters) or even worse, just window dressing, like the bakery assistant who spoke in haikus (why did we need to know this? This is never made clear.) So, another best seller for Jodi Picoult, but not one of her best, which is a shame, because the subject matter deserved more.