By Jodi Picoult
(Emily Bestler Books/Atria)
Sage Singer, the protagonist of Jodi Picoult’s ambitious 20th novel, “The Storyteller,” is a physically and emotionally scarred young woman working as a baker in a small New Hampshire town. She avoids human contact, interacting only with the wise former nun who owns the bakery and a married undertaker with whom she is having an affair.
Her quiet existence is shaken, though, when she befriends Josef Weber, an elderly German who frequents the bakery. A beloved former teacher and pillar of the community, Josef confesses to a shocking Nazi past, asking for both Sage’s forgiveness and her assistance in ending his life. Josef and Sage are kindred spirits of a sort, and he is eager to unburden himself, imploring: “You showed me your scars. I only ask you to let me show you mine.” Though Sage is an atheist who has never considered herself Jewish, Josef has chosen her because of her Jewish ancestry, rare in their New England town.
Initially unwilling to grant his request, Sage embarks on a mission to bring Josef to justice. Her quest brings her into contact with Leo Stein, a Department of Justice attorney dedicated to prosecuting war criminals. Despite the numbers tattooed on her grandmother Minka’s arm, Sage has never before questioned her grandmother about her wartime past. Together, Leo and Sage coax Minka’s story from her, believing she might hold the key to incriminating details that corroborate Josef’s story.