Some people find Picoult’s novels to be increasingly formulaic and predictable, as she seems to crank out a new one every year. I actually tend to stick up for her novels, saying that she does deal with thought-provoking issues and is an expert at capturing differing points of view. So even though I am an avid Picoult fan, this latest book was rather a disappointment for me. To be honest the book fell flat and was not convincing, believable, or developed enough, except for the flashback Holocaust section in the middle which was well done.
Although Picoult’s theme in ‘The Storyteller’ purports to be about mercy and forgiveness, I found the way that those were manifested in the ending of the story to be flawed. What she says about forgiveness is true: “forgiveness isn’t something you do for someone, it’s something you do for yourself.” But how the main character decides to forgive left me cold. I knew from an interview with the author that there was a big twist coming at the end and when I got there I realized I had predicted it long ago, so even in that…no cigar. Unfortunately I can’t be more specific about my issues with this novel, because I would have to include spoilers. I also found the gothic tale that runs alongside the main story to be awkward and unhelpful.
Sage Singer has secrets and is troubled and scarred both physically and emotionally. She becomes a baker, not so much because that profession runs in her family and she is good at it, but because it allows her to hide in the daytime and work at night. Sage befriends an old man who has dark secrets of his own and at the same time she learns that her grandmother is a survivor in more ways than one. The number tattooed on her grandmother’s forearm is a left over from Auschwitz.
By the way, the first printing of this book has the inside cover inscribed with many names and before I read the dedication at the front of the book, I had assumed it was a list of those those whose lives were lost in concentration camps. That would have been meaningful considering the topic of the book. They actually are names of her UK fans, probably one of the reasons the book is flying off the shelves here. Unfortunately that smacks of a publisher trying to boost sales and didn’t quite sit right with me in the context of a weighty subject like the tragedies of the second world war.
Her next one will be about elephants and grief and I am looking forward to reading it.