Talking About ‘The Storyteller’ with Bibliobeth

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How did I get it?:
Borrowed it from Beth!

Synopsis:

Sage Singer befriends an old man who’s particularly beloved in her community. Josef Weber is everyone’s favorite retired teacher and Little League coach. They strike up a friendship at the bakery where Sage works. One day he asks Sage for a favor: to kill him. Shocked, Sage refuses…and then he confesses his darkest secret – he deserves to die, because he was a Nazi SS guard. Complicating the matter? Sage’s grandmother is a Holocaust survivor.

What do you do when evil lives next door? Can someone who’s committed a truly heinous act ever atone for it with subsequent good behavior? Should you offer forgiveness to someone if you aren’t the party who was wronged? And most of all – if Sage even considers his request – is it murder, or justice?

Thoughts:

Chrissi: The Storyteller is emotional from the get go. Did it affect your reading experience?

Beth: I have to say it definitely did. A word that would describe it perfectly is “intense.” I haven’t read much about the Holocaust yet, as just the mere thought of it disgusts me but I was interested to read this book by Jodi Picoult as I haven’t enjoyed her latest books as much as I thought I would. (My Sisters Keeper remains one of my all time favourite books). What I wasn’t expected is the emotional roller-coaster ride of emotions that this novel took me on. At times I had to put the book down and remind myself to breathe because I was so enraptured and emotionally drained by the story.

Beth: How did you feel about the characters in this story? Any favourites?

Chrissi:  I thought the characters were really strong in this book.  They were really well developed and carefully considered. I particularly liked Sage. I thought she was a strong character.  I actually preferred reading from her point of view. I really felt for her. I did think that we could’ve heard more from Minka and Josef’s point of view.  But, because I really liked Sage, it didn’t matter to much to me.

Chrissi: The Storyteller uses multiple points of view. Do you think this worked?

Beth: To be perfectly honest, I think this book would have worked without the multiple points of view. The story is strong enough and written in such a way that we didn’t need multiple narrators. Not that this is a bad thing, and it didn’t take anything away from the story, but I didn’t get any more out of it because it used different points of view. Does that make any sense?!

Beth: How did the author explore sibling relationships in this story? i.e. Sage and her sisters, Minka and her sister Basia, Franz and his brother Reiner.

Chrissi:  I think it was interesting to see so many sibling relationships within the story. I got the impression that Jodi really wanted to explore the complexities of sibling relationships. There can often be much resentment and jealousy, especially when parents seem to favour one over the other (Franz and Reiner).

Chrissi: “Truth is so much harder than fiction.” Do you agree with this statement in relation to reading a book about such a contentious issue? Is reading about something that actually happened in history a lot harder than reading about something that’s made up?

Beth: That’s a tricky one. I think it probably depends on the author and how well they write. Saying that though, I think one of the reasons I was so emotionally affected by this book is because it actually happened. And that there are still people out there denying it. It’s crazy. Its obvious by the amount of detail in the book though that the author has done her research meticulously, and it was probably harder to write than it was to read.

Beth: Have you read any previous material about the Holocaust (fiction or non-fiction)? Would reading this book make you want to read more about it?

Chrissi: I have read other books about the Holocaust. Mainly fiction, it has to be said. I did think ‘Oh here we go again…’ when I started it, because I really thought it was going to be just another book about the Holocaust. I don’t know why I thought that though as everything that I’ve read about the Holocaust, has been powerful and compelling. The same goes for The Storyteller.

Chrissi: “Forgiving isn’t something you do for someone else. It’s something you do for yourself.” Do you agree with this? Can you ever forgive and forget?

Beth: I definitely agree with that statement. I think that if you haven’t forgiven for yourself, deep down it was always haunt you and return to worry you. But I also think that although we have the capacity to forgive other people, I don’t think it’s half as easy to forget, and the experience may always stay with you because of this.

Beth: I never saw the ending coming. Did you?

Chrissi: Definitely not. I have in the past found some of Jodi Picoult’s novels to be a bit predictable. I was very glad that I couldn’t see what was going to happen coming. I love that shocking moment when all is revealed and you had no idea! That moment really shows that it’s been a really good book!

Chrissi: Would you have forgiven Josef? Why do you think Josef lied?

Beth: Hoping to not come across as cold and unfeeling but no, I don’t think I would have been able to forgive Josef. The atrocities that were committed against Jews were so disgusting and diabolical that I think it would be very difficult for anyone to forgive. As for why Josef lied, I think in the end he was just protecting his brother, and was looking for atonement for his own mistakes.

Beth: How does this book differ from other works you have read by the author?

Chrissi:  Something that massively stands out for me is that there’s no trial. It might sound stupid, but I’ve felt like every recent Jodi Picoult book has followed the same formula. I liked that there was a Jodi Picoult change of direction!

Would you recommend it?:

Beth: Without a doubt!

Chrissi: Of course!

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