Book Review: The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult

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I just finished reading The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult.  I found it difficult to put down, and that hasn’t happened for quite some time.  That isn’t to say that I didn’t find issue with some parts of the book.  It simply means that I enjoyed the overall story, particularly Minka’s story of survival during World War II.  I could certainly relate to Sage as well, particularly to her desire for solitude and her relationship with her grandmother.  Unfortunately, I found several things about the modern story to be “off.”  If you are planning to read the novel, you might want to stop here.  Please keep in mind that these are just my opinions.

First, let’s start with Sage.  I couldn’t quite reconcile her personality with her actions.  She may be an atheist and she may harbor lots of guilt, but that doesn’t seem to be enough for her to become deeply involved with married man (Adam).  Being a guilt-ridden atheist doesn’t make one lack moral judgement.  In fact, I would say that her guilt demonstrates that she does indeed have a moral compass.  She even grudgingly agrees with Mary that her relationship with Adam is inherently flawed.  If she was so guarded in her human interactions that she chose to work alone overnight as a baker, why wouldn’t she see all the potential pitfalls in their relationship?  Not only is Adam a funeral director in their shared small town, which practically guarantees that he knows most people in town, he works for his father-in-law.  If Sage was so intent on punishing herself by remaining in an adulterous relationship with Adam, why wouldn’t she consider those who would be hurt by its revelation, namely Adam’s wife and children? It just doesn’t add up.

Then we get to Adam.  Sage already told Adam that she wanted to break it off.  He then doubles down and divorces his wife.  Sage then definitively breaks it off with him.  None of it makes sense to me.  I can understand why Adam decided to divorce if he felt so strongly about Sage; however, wouldn’t one think that he would check with Sage before he just throws his marriage and possibly his career out the window?  It is this impulsiveness in the present-day story that gets to me, which leads me to Leo.

I find Leo to be the most troubling character in the novel.  Something just doesn’t sit well with me.  He waltzes in and sweeps her off her feet with no real backstory.  The backstory available is hardly worth mentioning, and frankly, cliched.  At least it takes Sage a little while to realize that she is falling for Leo.  That doesn’t appear to be the case with Leo.  He fell for Sage practically the moment he met her.  His old-world manners and mannerisms could be charming if they were more fully developed, but that just isn’t the case.  I am all for a happy ending, but Sage and Leo’s relationship at the end appears false and forced in a way that I can’t quite decipher.

In the end, it doesn’t really matter.  Minka’s writing and real-life story make the novel well worth reading, even if she appears to be the only well-rounded character in the novel.  It is enough.  I highly recommend taking the time to read this book, particularly if interested in the World War II era at all.

On a personal note, I finally realized why W.M. found his way into my subconscious lately (read here).  Somehow, I connected Leo’s character with W.M.  I am not sure why, but I did.  I am happy I figured it out!  Mysteries like that have a nasty way of staying with me.  Now to figure out why.

 

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