What a thought-provoking book! It’s about evil, goodness, and the fact that the two of them can converge into the same person.
Sage Singer is a solitary girl who works at night in a bakery, hidden from the world by her own choice because she thinks she is not worthy of love, friendship, or being happy. One day, she makes friends with Josef, a respected old man from the community where she lives and, shockingly, he confesses to her that he was an SS Nazi guard at Auschwitz and asks her to help him die.
Of course, Sage’s first reaction (after denial, that is, because such a confession seemed more likely to be a made up story by an old man) is disgust for all the crimes committed by Josef in the past, but then again, that was long time ago, and the man he is now is completely different: a nice teacher who has been helping others for years. Might the new Josef redeem the old one? Who is to judge?
Intertwined in this story, there is also Minka’s; she is Sage’s grandmother and a Holocaust survivor who has kept the horror she lived to herself, becoming a new person with a new life once she moved to America. But now Sage needs to know, and Minka finally releases her story, in which Josef plays also a part. Therefore, if the reader was feeling pity for a ninety-year-old man who took part in the world’s worst crimes but voluntarily decided to become a new person, now is willing to change her mind after knowing Minka’s story in Auschwitz.
As far as I know, Picoult’s books are always this controversial. The characters play the two points of view of the story, both of them explained in detail for the reader to sympathize and one has to decide for herself, which is not an easy task. And then again, we are not the ones to judge, but we can’t avoid judging either.
So, if you are looking for a book (or an author, for that matter) to challenge your values and morality, this is a great option. Besides, I never get tired of stories set in World War II, and this particular one is well written: raw and bitter when necessary, but well balanced with kindness and humour thanks to secondary characters in both storylines.
PS: This book was not on my list for the Read my own damn books Challenge, but I have other four books by this author waiting on my shelves 😉
Atria Books, 460 pages
Book on Goodreads