Saturday, November 2, 2013

Book Review - The Storyteller

Where to begin with this book?  I guess I'll start with some background on my feelings toward Jodi Picoult.  I read My Sister's Keeper in 2006, and liked it (even though it made me cry).  Then I read Handle with Care in 2009, and it felt like the EXACT SAME STORY.  Then someone told me not all of her books are the same like that, so I gave her another chance and read Perfect Match.  It was different in the sense that it wasn't about 2 sisters and health issues, but as far as the emotional blackmail, and use of current/controversial topics and "surprise endings," JP pretty much has a formula for writing her books.  I decided I wouldn't read any of her other books.

Then my Literary Junkies book club picked The Storyteller.  After skipping the September and October books, I figured I ought to jump back in.  Plus the synopsis on Goodreads sounded kind of interesting. 

My synopsis (which doesn't contain any more spoilers than the one on Goodreads) is that Sage Singer is an emotional wreck, and then she meets this nice old man, and then he tells her he was a Nazi war criminal and asks her to kill him.  And then she struggles with what to do.  Oh, and her grandma is a holocaust survivor, so Sage has a more personal connection to the situation.  Kind of an interesting idea, right?  And it was kind of an interesting book, but there were just things that I couldn't get over.

The first half of the book had me rolling my eyes on almost every page (spoilers in white font).
  • Sage is named after the spice.  Her sisters are Pepper and Saffron, because their dad was a baker, and that's really normal for people to name their children after items from their career.  Also, she's got a scar on her face that prickles when she's feeling emotional (a little too similar to Harry Potter!) Oh, and she's having an affair with a married guy because she feels too ugly to have a real relationship.  And it's supposed to be a surprise at the end, but it was very obvious how she got her scar.  
  • Her co-workers are ridiculous.  I mean, the one guy only speaks in Haiku.  First of all, that's just cheesy and unbelievable, and secondly, SO DISTRACTING!  I found myself wondering if we are supposed to believe he does that all the time, and why his family hadn't sent him to therapy or something.  I can't imagine he has any close relationships because how would you have a conversation?  And this is really not the point of the novel!  I shouldn't be worried about Rocco's social issues.  
  • Enter Josef:  90-something German guy.  After knowing Sage for a very short time (like a few days, I think), he announces that he wants her to kill him, because of crimes he committed during WWII.  This revelation was really awkward, because they barely knew each other at this point.  I don't understand Sage's conflict at all.  She barely knows this guy.  I would have preferred it if JP set the stage that they had known each other for many years, and then I'd buy the turmoil that Sage is going through.  
  • Then we meet Leo (the DOJ Nazi-hunter) and he's a total creep!  I know it's supposed to feel like fate brought him and Sage together, but it mostly just seemed like he was a predator.  
  • The best parts of the book were the grandma's life story and her work of fiction.  After that section of the book, I liked the grandma so much that I started to transfer my positive feelings to Sage. 
  • After the middle of the book (which is the Grandma telling her stories from WWII), it was hard to jump back to Sage's problems.  I was more interested at this point, but the juxtaposition of the 2 stories was kind of jarring.  
  • The ending was just okay for me.  Pretty typical Picoult.  I really hated the fact that Sage and Leo are supposed to be starting a life together and right off the bat she is lying to him about some pretty important stuff, but I think that was kind of the point - that there was no good way to resolve the situation.  
Anyway, we are having our Twitter chat in a couple weeks, so I'll be interested to see what everyone else thought of it.  Have you read this book?  Or any other Jodi Picoult books?  What are your thoughts?

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