The Storyteller

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The Storyteller

THE STORYTELLERJodi Picoult

Part OneSage Singer has been going to group therapy since her mother died, three years earlier. Here she meets Josef Weber, a seemingly harmless old man. Right as they are becoming good friends, Josef reveals that he is not Josef, but Reiner Hartmann, a nazi officer. He believes that because Sage is Jewish, if she kills him, he can finally get away from his guilt. After the initial shock, Sage tries to tell him that she has relinquished the religion after her mother died, but she is the closest thing to a Jew that he can find. Soon after she contacts the department of justice, and with the help of Leo Stein, they set out to find ways to prove that he is Reiner Hartmann. Their search leads them to Minka Singer, Sage's grandmother and a survivor of the holocaust. After she correctly identifies a picture of Josef, without knowing that it was him, they ask her if she is willing to share her story.

Part TwoMinka is a young girl in Poland, starting to notice signs in her own town, prohibiting her from entering shops and from being accepted into schools with better education. She and her best friend Darija are sneaking into fancy galas and meeting boys, her sister Basia is pregnant, and her father's bakery is doing fine. She can tell that things are not right, but it does not have an effect on her, so she leaves it be. Suddenly she is forced into a ghetto, and her family and Darija are living miserable lives. But they are alive, and that is more than can be said for others. One day, Minka and Darija are forced to leave their families back at the ghetto as they are taken to Lodz, a concentration camp, before being moved to Auschwitz. Here, after an officer learns that she can speak German, she is taken from her and Darija's job of sorting through prisoner's old things, and becomes an assistant to the Hauptscharfurhrer, one of the many officers. Before all of this had happened, Minka had been writing a story about an upior, a vampire, and when she found a pen and scraps of paper at the camp she decided to continue. Eventually, the Hauptscharfuhrer finds out, but instead of turning her in, he asks her to read him the story, and to continue writing with a notebook that he gives her. Each day she comes back to work and reads the new parts to him, eventually learning that his name is Franz, when his brother, Reiner, another officer, comes in and they get in an argument. Her slow and hesitant friendship with Franz grows slowly, until, one day, she decides that Darija should come with her to work, as it is extremely cold where Darija has to work. She has done it before, writing a note supposedly from the Hauptscharfuhrer, and he has never turned her in. But as they walk in the door to Franz's office, Reiner is there, stealing money from his own brother. He then shoots and kills Darija, and tells Franz that it was Minka. Both Franz and Minka seem to know that he is lying, but Franz can do nothing but watch as she is punished and sent to a different camp. On the journey to the camp, Minka escapes, but is soon captured and taken to Gross-Rosen. Soon after, unknown soldiers show up at the camp telling everyone that they are from America and that they are all free.

Minka's StoryMinka writes a story about an upior, a vampire, starting before she is imprisoned and ending when she leaves Auschwitz. This story unintentionally mirrors her life and the life of Franz. Ania, a baker's daughter, is sought after by a man from her small village. She is saved from assault by a mysterious man named Aleks. He asks her if he can work at the bakery with her. She asks him why he would want to work in the dead of night and leave in the morning. He confides in her that his brother has a strange disorder that compels him to eat things he shouldn't. Aleks must keep an eye on him when he is awake, so he can only work when his brother is asleep. Meanwhile, around the village, people are being viciously attacked. Ania soon learns that the attacks are being caused by Aleks brother Casimir, who is a vampire. Soon enough, she learns that Aleks is also a vampire and she must decide if he is to blame for his brother's attacks. In real life, Minka wonders if Franz is to blame, not only for the cruel things that Reiner has done, but for being part of a system that leaves him no choice. Franz also wonders if he could be forgiven, and when Minka leaves the story unfinished, he is so desperate that he writes two endings. One in which Ania helps Aleks to die, paralleling what Josef (Franz) asks Sage to do. In the second ending Aleks lives and suffers with his guilt for eternity.

"I don't believe in God. But sitting there, in a room full of those who feel otherwise, I realize that I do believe in people"(373).

Part ThreeAs Minka's story seems to match up with what Josef has been telling Sage, Leo starts to look up and down for anything that can confirm that Josef Weber is, in fact, Reiner Hartmann. He realizes that Josef will have to admit to something specific. Something like killing Darija. Sage goes to Josef's house one day, ready to ask him even more in depth questions, but this time everything he says is being recorded by a microphone hidden in her clothes. Once he admits to killing a girl after she catches him stealing from his brother, Sage can finally breathe a sigh of relief. After Leo writes up a case report and gets the OK, he will be locked up to die in prison. But for some reason that Sage can not identify, it is not enough. Maybe it is that he would have killed her grandmother, or maybe for some other reason, she gives him a roll laced with monkshood. She watches him choke to death. When he is found at his house and taken to the morgue, she notices his wristband from the hospital, that indicates that he had B+ blood. She finds a file in Leo's briefcase, with a file on Reiner Hartmann, who had AB blood. She then finds the pictures and scraps with the story that her grandmother had written, and she realizes that Josef Weber was never Reiner, but Franz Hartmann. Franz who had kept the story. Franz who had finished the story.

"But forgiving isn't something you do for someone else. It's something you do for yourself. It's saying, You're not important enough to have a stranglehold on me"(451).

"There was no black and white. Someone who had been good her entire life could, in fact, do something evil" (317).

"The reason I am still sitting at Josef's kitchen table is the same reason traffic slows after a car wreck - you want to see the damage; you can't let yourself pass without that mental snapshot. We are drawn to horror even as we recoil from it" (164).


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