This is the first book I have read by Jodi Picoult and I think I may now read them all.
The story begins with Sage Singer a young woman with a difficult past. One that leaves her regularly attending a grief group and hiding an angry scar on her face. She’s a recluse, works through the night as a baker and knows love only as the other woman. She makes an unusual friend at the group- an old man, Josef Weber, known and respected in their community – and they develop an easy friendship. But Sage is to discover that he is not at all what his reputation and appearance suggests. He is a murderer, a war criminal, and has hidden in plain sight for over 70 years.
Seeking first Sage’s forgiveness and then her assistance in his death, Josef’s confession takes her into the darkest horrors of war and in doing so also leads her back into her own family’s story.
After a slow start the book hooked me at about 25% of the way in and from there I couldn’t put it down. I as good as inhaled the remainder of the book in two days. There were moments I had to put it down while I sobbed, and others where I read fervently as tears streamed.
The Holocaust is a devastating piece of history that we all know well, but there were millions of lives touched by this and as many stories to be told and more. Jodi Picoult has captured a few here, fictional but clearly based on thorough research. Some reviews admonish her ‘use’ of the Holocaust but I felt she handled it sensitively and with great respect, and Minka’s story (Sage’s Grandmother, a Polish Jew who was just a teenager during WWII) is, as you might expect, the most powerful section of the book and is both devastating and beautiful.
I loved that Minka was also a writer and the way she challenged people’s expectations of a young Jewish girl. I loved how Picoult managed to weave the power of language and story into her tale. I loved the baked goods that I just knew were as exquisite as they sounded despite me not actually being able to taste them (if only). I loved the fierce family loyalty and beautifully drawn characters. I loved the dark fairytale interspersed throughout the book and its connection with the story. I loved Sage’s journey and her wonderful Grandmother.
I wasn’t so keen on Rocco the Barista at the bakery who speaks only in Haikus – just a tad annoying – but thankfully he barely features. The very long chapters overwhelmed me at first (I like regular pauses) but as the book progressed they were very appropriate. I’m hard pushed to find other negatives, I was so enthralled and moved by this book, so I won’t force it. I didn’t agree with Sage’s final decision but I really appreciated that conflict.
Jodi Picoult is indeed a brilliant storyteller, understandable considering her wealth of experience, and I look forward to reading more of her work.
For more information on Jodi Picoult’s work visit here.