My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Full disclosure; I am a Jodi Picoult fan. So I went in with high expectations which were fully met and then exceeded.
Sage Singer is the somewhat reclusive, non practising Jewish baker who carries around the guilt and shame for having been involved in the death of her mother. She becomes friends with Josef Weber, a seemingly gentle, kind, pillar of the community who she meets in the grief group they both attend. As an unlikely friendship develops, Josef takes Sage into his confidence and confesses her the unthinkable; he was an SS Officer in the Nazi war machine. He goes further and not only asks Sage to forgive him, but to help him die.
This throws Sage into the realities of the Holocaust and the very direct impact this piece of modern history has had on her family. To quote the blurb, “…where does one draw the line between punishment and justice, forgiveness and mercy.”
We gain an insight to the Nazi system of training up young boys to becoming unthinking followers in what was already an anti-Semitic society. It also gives, in harrowing detail, a very real journey of misery and survival of Sage’s grandmother who was a prisoner in several concentration camps, including Auschwitz.
The story is well written, the twists and turns are shocking yet believable. This story cut close to home. My grandmother was a survivor of the German camp system. Far from being simply entertainment, I found myself struggling with revenge and forgiveness on a personal level. Picoult skilfully wraps the reader up in the confusion of right and wrong so many years past the crime.
This is a powerful novel and I highly recommend it.