The Storyteller

Emily Bestler: Atria. Feb. 2013. 448p. ISBN 9781439102763. $28. F
OrangeReviewStarBaker Sage Singer lives a solitary life. She toils through the night, preparing the next day's bread and hiding scars both visible and buried. After she strikes up an unlikely friendship with retired German teacher Josef Weber, the loved and respected nonagenarian reveals to her that he's a former SS officer in hiding. He confesses that he seeks forgiveness, then wants to die for the terrible acts he committed at Auschwitz, where Sage's grandmother Minka was interned during the Polish occupation. Weaving together the stories of Sage, Josef, and Minka is the fable of a young girl, Ania, and the bloodthirsty monster who terrorizes her.
VERDICT Picoult is no stranger to tackling difficult issues. Her latest page-turner confronts the oft-explored subject of the Holocaust with skill, starkness, and tremendous sensitivity. The characters' stories are compelling, but the stellar storyteller here is Picoult, who braids the quartet of intersecting tales into a powerful allegory of loss, forgiveness, and the ultimate humanity of us all. Her myriad fans are in for satisfying doses of everything they've come to expect from her: compulsive readability, impeccable research, and a gut-wrenching Aha! of an ending. [See Prepub Alert, 8/16/12.]

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