Thursday, January 9, 2014

The StoryTeller

Author: Jodi Picoult
Publisher: Atria (Simon & Schuster)
Publication date: February 26, 2013

When you start this book be prepared for a story within a story.
Sage is a baker with something she wants to hide. So it suits her just fine to work nights in a coffee shop shaping and kneading 100 pounds of dough in to the various bagels and yeast cakes and cinnamon rolls she will leave proudly in the glass bakery cases each morning as she slips out the back door of the bakery. Such an anonymous life suits her just fine until the girl with a lot she wants to keep private encounters 95 year old man who wants to confess a secret. A terrible weight he wants to unburden himself of. The weight of his confession causes Sage to deeply listen with new ears to her grandmothers tale of being young.

And it is here with the grandmothers (Minka) tale of long ago that our story within a story begins to unfold.

Minka's story is heavy and dark.  A Gothic description of her life as a young Jewish girl. Anyone who has ever read anything about the Holocaust will be familiar with the basics of  Minka's story but it still makes for the best part of this book. 

As for the 95 year old man with the weight of the world on his shoulders, his secret is truly awful. The question becomes, is there anything too bad for forgiveness? By drawing Sage in to his secret, she now has to face that question as will you the reader. 

Lest this book sound too dark it has plenty of light moments as Sage is overall a girl as light at heart as some of the breads she rises so delicately under her hands. For instance, the scene when her beloved mother dies and she has promised her that she will make sure the Judy Garland version of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" is played at her funeral. Sage has dutifully given the music to the funeral director but unwittingly downloaded the wrong song from iTunes and unfortunately and to the great horror of Sage's distraught sisters, the song that plays is "Ding Dong the Witch Is Dead"! 

The moment, rather than reverting to the macabre is told in such a tongue in cheek way by Sage that you smile in spite of yourself.

This book is long but moves fast. There is a lot of back and forth dialogue plus the two story lines (that of Sage and the old man, plus  Minka's) to keep track of but the writer does a good job of not bogging down and the story moves along briskly. 

The heavy subject matter is combined with some truly lovely people that you meet along the way as well as the delicious and constant baking that is going on as  subtext and that will leave you needing a cinnamon roll as soon as you put the book down.

The larger questions of forgiveness and when and for whom make this a  a great book to stimulate discussion among a book club or just to examine in the privacy of ones own thoughts.

Till next time, happy reading!

The reading of all good books is like a conversation with the finest minds of past centuries. - Rene Descartes

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