x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Book review: The Storyteller may be formulaic, but it still works

Like many of Jodi Picoult's books, her newest involves a family and a dramatic dilemma. But Picoult still delivers with The Storyteller, a tale of murder-for-hire and former Nazis.

The Storyteller
The Storyteller

The Storyteller
Jodi Picoult
Hodder & Stoughton

Novels by Jodi Picoult usually warrant a subgenre of their own: family-orientated dramas wound around a Catch-22-styled dilemma. Critics use the term "formulaic", but, as Picoult has proved with strong sales figures and rapid bestseller list entries, her trademark plot structures are tempting shelf bait.

With The Storyteller, Picoult raises the emotional stakes. On a fine day in the town of Westerbridge, New England, a reclusive young baker, Sage Singer, is asked to commit murder. The request comes from an elderly friend of hers, Josef Weber, a highly respected member of their suburban community and - as recently discovered by her - a former Nazi. Another Picoult-esque twist is established in Sage's Jewish roots, further complicated through her grandmother Minka, an Auschwitz survivor whose stories of the past have yet to surface.

Picoult's strength in building layers of emotional turmoil remains intact, evident in protagonists who are scarred with the most painful of memories. As with most of her better work, this strength manages to absolve a formulaic plot, resulting in an engrossing page-turner.

* Noori Passela