The Story Teller


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He has yet to say a single word during a session. He comes in often with his dog, a little dachshund, and he orders a fresh roll with butter and a black coffee. He spends hours writing in a little black notebook, while his dog sleeps at his feet. The awkward silence grows between us like yeasted dough. You have been coming a long time. One Easter, when she heard the priest say He is risen she had a vision. It was a fair-weather shrine; business dropped off dramatically during New England winters. The only catch was that she had no idea how to bake. I started baking when I was twenty years old and my father died unexpectedly.

I was at college, and went home for the funeral, only to return and find nothing the same. I stared at the words on textbooks as if they had been written in a language I could not read. I missed one exam, then another. I stopped turning in papers. It reminded me of Sunday mornings as a kid, when I would awaken to the scent of fresh bagels and bialys, crafted by my father. Or so I thought, until I started to sneak into the residential college dining hall kitchen and bake bread every night. I left the loaves like abandoned babies on the thresholds of the offices of professors I admired, of the dorm rooms of boys with smiles so beautiful that they stunned me into awkward silence.

I left a finial rail of sourdough rolls on a lectern podium and slipped a boule into the oversized purse of the cafeteria lady who pressed plates of pancakes and bacon at me, telling me I was too skinny. On the day my academic advisor told me that I was failing three of my four classes, I had nothing to say in my defense; but I gave her a honey baguette seeded with anise, the bitter and the sweet.

My mother arrived unexpectedly one day. She took up residence in my dorm room and micromanaged my life, from making sure I was fed to walking me to class to quizzing me on my homework readings. I wound up being on the five-year-plan, but I did graduate. My mother stood up and whistled through her teeth when I crossed the stage to get my diploma. And then everything went to hell.

And so afterward, with my eye still bloodshot and the Frankenstein monster stitches curving around my temple and cheek like the seam of a baseball, I gave my mother the same advice she had given me. It took almost six months, one bodily system shutting down after another. I sat by her side in the hospital every day, and at night went home to rest. Instead, I started once again to bake — my go-to therapy. I brought artisan loaves to her doctors. I made pretzels for the nurses. For my mother, I made her favorite — cinnamon rolls, thick with icing.

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I made them daily, but she never managed a bite. It was Marge, the facilitator of the grief group, who suggested I get a job, to help me forge some kind of routine. Fake it until you make it, she said. I had been shy before; now I was reclusive. She is already picturing the plant it will become. I imagine she thought the same, meeting me. When your workday begins at 5 PM and lasts through dawn, you hear each click of the minute hand on the clock over the stove, you see movements in the shadows. You do not recognize the echo of your own voice; you begin to think you are the only person left alive on earth.

The world just feels different for those of us who come alive after dark. Most days this means I get about six hours of sleep before I return to Our Daily Bread to start all over again, but being a baker means accepting a fringe existence, one I welcome whole-heartedly. The people I see are convenience store clerks, Dunkin Donuts drive-through cashiers, nurses switching shifts.

And Mary, who close up the bakery shortly after I arrive. She locks me in, like the princess in Rumplestilskin, not to count grain but to transform it before morning into the quick breads and yeasted loaves that fill the shelves and glass counters. I am already well into making the one hundred pounds of product I make every night by the time I hear Mary start to close up.

The one lone customer is Mr. Weber, from my grief group, and his tiny dog. Mary sits with him, a cup of tea in her hands. He struggles to get to his feet when he sees me and does an awkward little bow. His dachshund comes closer on its leash to lick at a spot of flour of my pants. Weber slips the loop of the leash over his wrist and stands.

I enjoy the company. After all, I have plenty to do. But it has started to pour, now, a torrential sheet of rain. Weber is either walking home or waiting for the bus. He nods in gratitude and sits down again. As he cups his hands around the coffee mug, Eva stretches out over his left foot and closes her eyes. But instead of staying with Mr. Weber, I follow Mary into the back room where she keeps her biker rain gear. It was three days before I heard that Osama Bin Laden had been killed.

The worst he could do is talk you to death. I watch her open the rear door of the bakery. She ducks at the onslaught of driving rain and waves without looking back. I close the door behind her and lock it. I have a hundred loaves to shape; bagels to boil; bialys to fill. I do, but I check my watch. My timer will go off in three minutes, then I will have to go back into the kitchen. His words sound as if he is biting them off a string: My gaze locks on his.

My grandma is always talking about how at her age, her friends are dropping like flies. I imagine for Mr. Weber, the same is true. From the kitchen comes the sound of the timer buzzing; it wakes up Eva, who begins to bark. Almost simultaneously there is a sweep of approaching lights through the glass windows of the bakery as the Advance Transit bus slows at its corner stop. I notice that Mr. Weber — Josef — has left behind the little black book he is always writing in when he sits here. It is banded with elastic. I grab it and run into the storm. I step right into a gigantic puddle, which soaks my clog.

I hold up the black book and walk toward him. This is just a place to keep all my thoughts. They get away from me, otherwise. The driver of the Advanced Transit bus honks twice. We both turn in the direction of the noise. In a town the size of Westerbrook, which was derived of Yankee Mayflower stock, being Jewish made my sisters and I anomalies, as different from our classmates as if our skin happened to be bright blue.

I went to Hebrew school because my sisters did, but when the time came to be bat mitvahed, I begged to drop out. I used to sit at Friday night services listening to the cantor sing in Hebrew and wondered why Jewish music was full of minor chords. My parents did, however, fast on Yom Kippur and refused to have a Christmas tree. To me, it seemed they were following an abridged version of Judaism, so who were they to tell me how and what to believe?

I said this to my parents when I was lobbying to not have a bat mitzvah. My father got very quiet. Then he sent me to my room without supper, which was truly shocking because in our household, we were encouraged to state our opinions, no matter how controversial. It was my mother who sneaked upstairs with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for me.

I have a problem going to Hebrew School.


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This was a seemingly random observation. She had been born in Poland and still had an accent that made it sound like she was always singing. And yes, Grandma Minka wore sweaters, even when it was ninety degrees out, but she also wore too much blush and leopard prints. It took me a moment to realize what my mother was telling me. How had I made it to age twelve without knowing this? Why would my parents have hidden this information from me? We had studied the Holocaust in social studies class. It was hard to imagine the textbook pictures of living skeletons matching the plump woman who always smelled like lilacs, who never missed her weekly hair appointment, who kept brightly colored canes in every room of her house so that she always had easy access to one.

She was not part of history. She was just my grandma. But your father, he started going. I think it was his way of processing what happened to her. Here I was, trying desperately to shed my religion so I could blend in, and it turned out being Jewish was truly in my blood; that I was the descendant of a Holocaust survivor.

Frustrated, angry, and selfish, I threw myself backward against my pillows. It has nothing to do with me. If she had been in a concentration camp during World War II, she must have been a completely different person at the time. The picture book was of Cinderella, but she must have been thinking of something else, because her tale was about a dark forest and monsters; a trail of oats and grain. I kept reaching for it, pulling at her sweater. At one point, the wool rode up just far enough for me to be distracted by the faded blue numbers on her inner forearm.

I had memorized my telephone number the previous year in preschool, so that if I got lost, the police could call home. The next day, when Josef Weber comes into the bakery at 4: You can smell it, when an artisanal bread comes out of the oven: I glance with pride at the variegated crumb.

We chat — about the weather, about Eva, about my favorite recipes. We chat, as Mary closes up the bakery around us. We chat, even as I dart back and forth into the kitchen to answer the call of various timers. There are even moments during our conversation that when I forget to disguise the pitted side of my face by ducking my head or letting my hair fall in front of it. But Josef, he is either too polite or too embarrassed to mention it.

Or maybe, just maybe, there are other things about me he finds more interesting. His hand shakes as he reaches for his mug of coffee. The pocked drawstring of skin flapping the corner of my right eye. The silver hatchmarks cutting through my eyebrow. The way my mouth tugs upward, because of the way my cheekbone healed. The bald notch at my scalp that no longer grows hair, that my bangs are brushed to carefully cover.

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Use the HTML below. You must be a registered user to use the IMDb rating plugin. Won 1 Primetime Emmy. Learn more More Like This. An anthology show featuring the work of the great puppeteer and his staff. The love of an enchanted young girl brings wonder and healing to a broken family. The Dark Crystal Edit Cast Series cast summary: The Storyteller 9 episodes, Brian Henson Edit Storyline A variety of European folk tales are retold in nine new stories.

Edit Did You Know? And this would incorporate the concept of the "Storyteller" into the book more thoroughly - the stories we tell ourselves to justify our actions. What stories does Sage tell herself to make it okay to knowingly sleep with a married man? What stories does Minka tell herself to assuage some of the guilt of being the survivor?

So there you are, Jodi, take those suggestions away and work on your manuscript - it should turn out much better now View all 24 comments. Mar 07, Carol rated it really liked it Shelves: Jodi Picoult is one of my adopted authors. This means I enjoy her books and want to share them with others so I donate the cost of each to our library. I get to read the book first, allowing the library, the community and myself to reap the benefits.

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It's definitely a win-win deal. I have not loved all of Picoult's books but have always respected the determination and marketing savvy she has shown since she began her career. So what did I think of her latest? The Storyteller is told in much the s Jodi Picoult is one of my adopted authors. The Storyteller is told in much the same way as many of Picoult's stories, using narrator viewpoint to lay it out. Sometimes this works for me and sometimes not. This time her formula worked and I was thoroughly engrossed from page one right through to the end.

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The Storyteller is one of those books that is extremely hard to talk about without spoilers. This alone makes it a good pick for book discussions. Picoult has taken what could have been one amongst the many holocaust fiction historicals and made it her own. She did borrow from other works to put moral issues under the microscope, most notably, The Sunflower: Sage Singer grandmother, Minka, is a holocaust survivor though Sage knows little of her story.

When Sage grieves the loss of her mother in a bereavement group she meets and becomes friends with an elderly man with his own deep secrets.

He asks Sage to kill him but only after she forgives him for something he will reveal. Though a primary theme twists love, hate, and forgiveness every which way, there are other stories to hear. Somehow Picoult manages to even weave in a vampire tale and make it meaningful. I have not enjoyed a book by Picoult as much as this in some time.

The Storyteller reminds me why I started following her career to begin with. She has such a way with words taking the ordinary and making them sing. The one thing I wish she wouldn't do, she did and this takes some of my pleasure away. I can't tell you what as it is one of those spoilers. I hope Jodi Picoult decides to write more in the historical fiction genre rather than "pulled from the headlines" as I think she shines here. I've read some great reviews of this book. Read a few more and see what you think. View all 40 comments.

Apr 05, Luffy rated it really liked it. Jodi Picoult is an author who constantly challenges herself and now has undertaken the events of WW2 to segue her usual bone chilling plots and make an amalgam of sorts. The names of the characters in books generally are not only necessary, but they are also revelatory. Sage is a young woman who has a troubled past and carries enough baggage to qualify as an alcoholic.

I liked the main characters. One bonus fact is that there are no overwhelming flashbacks in this book. Jodi Pico Jodi Picoult is an author who constantly challenges herself and now has undertaken the events of WW2 to segue her usual bone chilling plots and make an amalgam of sorts. Jodi Picoult uses her unique writing style to weave a persistent and apprehending magic, intuiting that there are many more books in the pipeline. View all 4 comments. Mar 18, Colleen rated it really liked it. So, to be honest I have been so inundated with research articles, that my free time reading choices have been, well, light.

I have been taking on really easy reads due to the fact that my brain hurts. I thought, being Jodi Piccoult and all, that this book would fit into that category, however I was pleasantly surprised. This book was not only extremely well written, but thought provoking and moving. I never considered a book that took various perspectives of the Holocaust, well because I only bel So, to be honest I have been so inundated with research articles, that my free time reading choices have been, well, light.

I never considered a book that took various perspectives of the Holocaust, well because I only believed there was one perspective that mattered or that was worth discussing. In her effort to deport and charge Josef, she becomes his confidant as he confesses the sins of his past, and those of his brother.

Absolutely worth the read, almost gave it 5 stars View all 11 comments. I do not read many of Jodi Picoult's books, mainly because a lot of them do not really appeal to me. I bought this book mainly because of the high ratings it was recieving on here. All i have to say is wow!!! I loved this book, at times i had to put it down to clear my head of the horrors i was reading.

No matter how many books i have read, True or fiction based. The story of what happened to the Jews during the holocaust never fails to bring me to tears. Also reading the story from a young Germa I do not read many of Jodi Picoult's books, mainly because a lot of them do not really appeal to me. Also reading the story from a young German boy's point of view growing up in Germany during war times and the Hitler Youth and becoming a man and SS Officer.

I was not suprised by the twist at the end, infact i cottoned on to this quiet early on. Saying this it did not take away anything in the story that was unfolding. This book will stay with me for a while and will recommend it to friends alike. Jan 03, Danya rated it really liked it Shelves: I actually really disliked Sage in the first part of this book.

I'm not sure if this is intentional on the author's part, or if we were supposed to find her character sympathetic, but whatever the case, the result was that I just could not make myself like her. She seemed to me to be very self-effacing, in an artificial 'woe is me' kind of way, from how she felt about her scarred face which she was really hung up on to the reasons behind her sleeping with a married man. This latter decision of hers probably lost her the most respect with me, because I can forgive a character a fair number of things, but adultery is something I find it very difficult to get on board with.

She knew full well that this guy was married, and yet she carried on this affair with him anyway. I'm sorry, but ugh. To be fair, Sage does improve in the last third of the book, taking some initiative to make changes in her life, gaining more self-confidence, and earning back some of my respect. Her character development is due in part to what she absorbs from the story her grandmother tells her, as it helps Sage put everything into perspective, but also to the fact that she begins a relationship with another thankfully, unmarried!

This underlying message of 'you can feel good about yourself once you've got a guy's approval' didn't sit that well with me, though. Also, I would like to note that although Sage is 25, to me her voice sounded too mature for her age — more like someone in her thirties. Technically since she is in her twenties I'm counting this one as qualifying for the "New Adult" challenge, but I don't think it captures the voice of a year-old very realistically.

Sage's grandmother, on the other hand, is so much easier to like. Her story, told in Part 2, was probably my favourite section of the book ironically, since it's the part that deals with all of the atrocities of the Holocaust. Minka is a relatable character you have to feel sorry for, and yet she demonstrates her strength and perseverance time and again. I can't really discuss him without spoilers. Suffice it to say that the glimpses we're given indicate that he's a very interesting, complex character, and I wish we'd been able to see more of his perspective.

I suspect one of the author's objectives in writing The Storyteller was to cast light on some of the shades of grey involved in the events and people of the Holocaust. Whether she actually succeeds in this, I'm less certain. I wish Picoult had explored the larger system and the elements of social psychology that shaped and exacerbated the behaviour of the Nazis. Instead, she mostly focuses on a few individuals, reducing it to a question of "Can someone be truly good or truly evil, or is everyone just a mix?

Since I got my degree in psychology, and took a course in applied social psych, I know that social psychology played a critical role in bringing about the atrocities of the Holocaust. I'm sure it was not the only factor, but let's face it: I would have appreciated more exploration of the idea — a fundamental tenet of social psychology theory — that rather than behaviour being attributed to "bad apples" i. In terms of the Holocaust specifically, personally I'm inclined to think that there were probably a few apples that had already gone bad, but there was definitely something wrong with the barrels, too.

This is not to say that Picoult paints all the Germans with the same brush. She takes steps to make sure this is not the case, and the German individuals we are presented with fall in a variety of places on the 'moral spectrum', from the lacking-a-conscience Reiner, to the more ambiguous Franz, to the downright helpful Herr Bauer, Herr Fassbinder, and anonymous farmer's wife.

Not all of the Jewish characters are "perfect" either, case in point being Sage herself, of course. Nothing I haven't heard before, but it's still a great point to raise in the context of the story. Whether or not forgiveness is possible from someone you did not directly wrong is also introduced as an interesting discussion. Ania's story, which appears in excerpts throughout, does a great job of highlighting many of the themes that underlie the novel as a whole. Concepts of brotherhood, friendship, duty, honour, compassion, helplessness, guilt, and shame are presented in a folktale fashion.

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I found Part 1 to be rather boring, and you already know how I felt about Sage, so initially The Storyteller and I were off to a pretty slow start. I didn't realize The Storyteller was going to go into that much detail about a survivor's Holocaust experience, but Minka's story is one of the most compelling aspects of the book — gripping, intense, horrifying, and engrossing.

When Part 3 returned to the modern-day characters and plot, I was initially not that thrilled about it, but I was feeling more invested in the story by this point — and then I guessed the twist and had to keep reading to see if I was right. If you're finding Part 1 to be slow-going and you're fed up with Sage, I definitely recommend you stick it out until Part 2. I'd also suggest taking breaks with this book. It's hardly a surprise, seeing as this book deals with the Holocaust, but Part 2 in particular is bleak, depressing, and densely packed with information. It's certainly not a quick, easy read.

I would like to note, though, that Picoult does an excellent job of integrating all of the information into Minka's personal story. While I think Jodi Picoult did her research about the conditions of the concentration camps, what she presents us with is more than just a set of facts. We come to care about Minka as a person. Partway through Part 3 I started to suspect what the twist was, but I was kept guessing, never totally sure until the revelation actually occurred.

I'm glad what I suspected turned out to be the case, because it nicely ties in the story of the two brothers, Reiner and Franz, as well as the tale involving Ania that is interspersed throughout. It also makes this one of those books where a second read-through might be a different kind of experience, now that you know the twist. I kind of wish there had been more closure with Josef and Minka, but closure is not always possible in real life. I wasn't really sure how to feel about Sage's ultimate decision view spoiler [ to help Josef die, but not to forgive him hide spoiler ] , but it's certainly an interesting choice.

The ending seemed a little abrupt to me; I thought more could have been wrapped up, as we don't really know what's going to happen to Sage. Still, it ends a bit unsettlingly view spoiler [ on yet another lie!

The Storyteller

I received an ARC for review from the publisher. This book counts towards my goal for the "New Adult" challenge. View all 23 comments. Jan 12, Thomas rated it it was amazing Shelves: When I finished The Storyteller , I couldn't craft a coherent sentence. I just sat and thought to myself: Sage Singer bakes bread.

It's therapy for her, in addition to the grief support group she attends after losing her mother in a car crash. One day she befriends Josef Weber, a fellow support group goer and an elderly man who is a cherished member of their small town community. Sage soon realizes that Josef doesn't just want her bread: She learns that Josef has committed a terrible crime against humanity and that someone in her own family has suffered at the hands of the Nazis.

With this connection in mind Sage struggles to make the right choice. Is it her to duty to deliver him from his wicked past, or would she bringing herself down to his level by doing so? Why is it so hard to find out what's right, when faced with someone who's done so much wrong? Jodi Picoult is a master storyteller. For me, the most salient part of The Storyteller was when Minka, Sage's grandmother, shared her story about surviving Auschwitz and the other horrors she endured during the Holocaust.

Picoult's writing is so welcoming, beautiful, and piercing that you feel your heart break into another piece every time you flip a page. There's no doubt that what happened to the Jews was horrifying and a testament to the monstrous side of mankind, but when you read Picoult's work, you don't just think "wow, this is horrible" - you feel it, and you remember it, and you resolve that such crimes should never be allowed to happen again.

I feel like a lot of the criticism Picoult receives from the literary community stems from the argument that she takes controversial topics and uses repetitive plot structures to exploit them and sell bestsellers. I also feel that The Storyteller is the perfect book to counter that argument, because even though Picoult does use a somewhat similar formula in her novels family issues, court cases, etc. Like she does in her other novels, in The Storyteller she takes difficult topics like forgiveness, trauma, and justice, and makes you feel every blow through her three-dimensional characters.

From Sage's scar-induced reticence to Josef's incisive inner turmoil, I rode a gamut of emotions expansive enough to cover an ocean. The Storyteller is Picoult at her prime. She puts a human face on the Holocaust, a tragic, beastly, and horrendous event. She deftly delves into the human psyche and makes you think about what it means to be a survivor, a storyteller, a human.

View all 8 comments. May 19, Penelope rated it it was amazing. I loved the book. As a Jew myself, living in today's world I felt it was important for me to be reminded of this terrible atrocity. I wonder if I could have had the courage to survive and cope with the losses of all my loved ones. This book has given me a renewed sense of the importance of reaching out to those less fortunate and help elevate their suffering, rather than spend time worrying about petty bs. Thank you Jodi Picoult for this empowering shot of reality. Mar 12, Brittany B.

Everyone, even if not a Picoult fan! This book wildly exceeded my expectations. This is one of the best book of the year, and easily the finest novel of Jodi Picoult's career. Just an extraordinary book. Mar 03, Kelly rated it really liked it Shelves: If you read my reviews, then you know I'm a Jodi fan because I like her characters, controversial plots, and varied narrative techniques.

At first, I was frustrated that Jodi chose to write a story on a topic that has been told so many times before and with so many fiction and nonfiction books on the Holocaust, people will invariably compare this book to these others. I taught Wiesel's Night for 15 years and have read so many Holocaust books, that I fretted about this book when I Spoiler alert: I taught Wiesel's Night for 15 years and have read so many Holocaust books, that I fretted about this book when I first started reading it.

I admit that I was uptight about the long passage Minka narrated of her experience in the Holocaust, but once I let go of my reservations, I found myself enthralled by the story despite having read this Holocaust plot many times before. What makes this story fresh is Minka's supernatural tale of vampires and not your Twilight vampires but grossly horrific monsters who devour humans. Minka's story is a contrived metaphor for Franz's life, but it works especially with the final words he utters , so I am not bothered by this at all.

I guessed the twist in the story long before it occurred, but this still did not ruin the story for me. The ending of this book reminds me of Jodi's Tenth Circle in that the book ends with the reader knowing that there is much more to be resolved and we must determine what that resolution is. She mimics MInka's ending to her vampire story in this way.

I loved how the bread making was an intrinsic part of the story and not just an occupation for some of the characters. View all 3 comments. This book had me thinking on so many different levels that it's hard for me to sum up my thoughts in a review. This quote sums up a lot of what this book had me thinking about - "not all Jews were victims and not all Germans were murderers.

A quote from the book, "I do believe in people. In their strength to help each other, and to thrive in spite of the odds. I can't imagine having your family members ripped away from you and then to try and carry on day-to-day under normal circumstances let alone horrific ones. Forgiveness is also a big theme in this book.

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