Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Storyteller

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 "History isn't about dates and places and wars.
It's about the people who fill the spaces between them." Jodi Picoult, The Storyteller

The characters are fictitious but the subject matter is not.  A German man at the end of his life, a Jewish girl, in the early stages of hers, strike up an unlikely friendship.  In a bid to get her to help him end his life, his horrifying story unfolds. A story that had a life changing effect on six million Jews, the grandmother of this young Jewish girl being one of them.

In true Picoult fashion, this book is full of intertwining lives, twists and turns, quotes that you want to write down and remember forever, and a subject matter that leaves you questioning what you would do in the same situation. 

I read the following section of the book about three or four times.  I just had to go back again and again.  My thoughts went nuts with the imagery and the concept.  I'm still not sure I can completely wrap my head around it.

"One morning after a storm, when the snow had blanketed the camp, Darija and I stepped outside the block to march to work.  We shuffled behind other women, all wrapped in ragged layers, freezing.  The path which we took every day, marched us along the far side of the fence at the entrance ramp to the camp.  Sometimes we would see the new railroad cars arriving: sometimes there was a selection going on as we passed.  Sometimes we shuffled past a line of people waiting for the shower they would not survive.

That day as we passed, a new group of prisoners was being belched out of one of the cars.  They stood like we had on the platform, carrying their belongings, yelling out names of loved ones.

Suddenly, we saw her.

She was dressed from head to toe in white silk.  On her head, a veil streamed out behind her in the cold wind.  She was looking around, even as she was herded into line for the selection.

The rest of us women all stopped, riveted by this sight.

It was, unbelievably, not the most depressing thing we had ever seen: a bride, ripped from her own wedding, separated from her groom, and put on a transport to Auschwitz. 

On the contrary, it gave us hope.

It meant that no matter what was happening in this camp, no matter how many Jews they managed to round up and kill, there were still more of us out there: living lives, falling in love, getting married, assuming that tomorrow would come."

I would recommend this book to most people.  It's well written and in that sense, easy to read.  At the same time, it's confronting and has left me unsettled.  Just the way it should be.  There is no sense to be made of the Holocaust.  There is no box to put it in.  No pretty bow to mask the ugly that it was.  There are no answers to the questions.  There is an unsettling.

And there is hope.

"After I was dressed in the clean clothing - soft cotton and wool, as if I had been wrapped in a cloud - she brought another bucket of clean water, and a bar of soap and washed my hair for me.  She used her fingers to scrub out the mud, and she cut the mats that could not be worked free.  Then she sat behind me, the way my mother used to do, and brushed it.

Sometimes all it takes to become human again is someone who can see you that way, no matter how you present on the surface."


Kath May 15, 2013 at 8:09 AM  

Oh my...

Anonymous May 15, 2013 at 9:00 PM  

This is such a great review. It almost makes me cry every time I read it... I think I'm up to about 3 now. Awesome.

Sabba and Nanny May 16, 2013 at 7:20 AM  

Excellent review. I think I must read (listen to) this book.

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