I’m not sure where to start with my review of this book. It was one of the most powerful stories I have ever read. Powerful where as it invoked so many emotional feelings and had the ability to place you right in the moment. First off I should begin by giving a brief introduction as to what this story is about.
You first meet the main character, Sage Singer, who is a magnificent baker. She has inherited this talent and works all night in order to make sure all of the bakeries items are ready for the morning rush. She hides herself in the kitchen and only works at night so she can try to escape how lonely she is after her mother’s death and the horrible memories associated with the accident. Sage has been attending a grief support group since the death of her mother and it is there that she meets Josef Weber, an elderly gentleman who has recently lost his wife. Josef is a retired teacher and a beloved man in their community. They quickly form a friendship.
This friendship becomes tested when Josef reveals a horrifying truth about his past and asks Sage for a huge favour that she is unsure if she can go through with, he wants her to help him die. The next little bit that I write may contain a few spoilers about the secret, but will not give away anything from the magnitude of the story. First off, you need to understand that Sage comes from a Jewish family, yet she has decided not to practice her faith like the rest of her family. Her grandmother is a survivor of the Holocaust, in particular, Auschwitz. The secret that Josef has unloaded on Sage is that he was a soldier, an SS guard during World War II, a Nazi. He no longer wants to live with the horrors that he has done in his past and just wants to leave the world, with the help of a Jewish friend whom may grant him his forgiveness. Sage needs to decide if she can forgive someone for a crime that wasn’t committed against her, but against thousands of other people who share the same religious background. She also needs to face her moral conscious and decide if she will grant Josef his one last wish. Upon hearing both Josef’s story about his time as a SS soldier, and reading Sage’s grandmother’s recount of her life during that time, you find that their paths have crossed before.
I cannot begin to describe the feelings and emotions that awaken within you while reading this book, especially the second part (the novel is broken into three parts), which is Sage’s grandmother, Minka’s, first-hand account of her life during World War II. It’s heartbreaking to know that so many people suffered the same fate, and yet many more lost their lives, just because. This book was difficult to read due to the content, but I am glad I did. Sometimes I found that I had to put the book down just because the content was so overwhelming, but I am so thankful that I have that option. It makes you wonder just what your life would have been like, and what you would have done, had you lived through that.
Throughout the book, Picoult adds in another story, which seems to be mimicking the life of Minka. Both stories being interwoven make for an interesting read. One story leads you to think about the other.
Picoult really did her research and brought to life a horrific past that needs to be remembered. I cannot recommend this book enough. You will not only enjoy the rich narrative, but you will also be enlightened and educated. Even though the story she wrote is fiction, it is based on facts and real life events. If you can, please get yourself a copy and read. By far one of the best books I have read.