Originally posted on my blog Chasing Empty Pavements
Per the usual, Jodi Picoult's new book was on my shelf the day it came out. She's on my automatic pre-order list and I own the books the day they are released. I was hoping with all my heart that this novel would be better than her last one. My kind readers, the Jodi Picoult I know and love dearly... IS BACK. (For now). Oh. My. Word. This book. It was SO good you guys. It was everything I hoped it would be and in perfect Jodi Picoult fashion, it was mesmerizing haunting and tantalizing. It was the type of story that made me fall in love with her books in the first place. Perhaps I have a bit of a soft spot for the subject matter since one of my novels also deals with WWII in a more contemporary setting, but it was really a breathtaking novel.
Ah. I'm not sure where to even start here. The characters, perhaps? I'll be honest, I didn't fall in love with the characters until the middle portion of the book. They are wonderful characters, but the first half, I feel like it's more plot driven than character driven, and for this novel--that works. But by the end of the novel, I really had fallen in love with Sage and Leo. Though Sage is the "heroin" per say, her grandmother is really the heart of this story. Minka is the meat to this haunting depiction of WWII and the Holocaust. The thing is, though Minka is fiction, the fact that the bones of this story ARE real, makes her seem more real than most characters I've ever read. Her story is not unusual for Holocaust survivors and THAT is what it so sad and horrifying. I did enjoy the slight love story that played out between Sage and Leo, though I saw it coming a mile away. Although, I also did like the whole Sage and Adam angle as well because it was written so much different than most "men-who-cheat-and-tell-their-mistress-they'll-leave-their-wife" situation. What Picoult does so well in this novel (and many of her other ones) is take an ethical/moral question or event and turn it on it's head. She twists it in a knot so intricately, by the time you're doing reading the novel, you forgot what side of the issue you stood on. Or maybe you don't. Maybe you still know what side you stand on, but you've been softened by the blow of the other side. This novel in particular though, goes beyond what she's ever written in a way because of the horrific acts she's talking about. She does an incredible job of showing both the evil and brutality of the Nazi's but there are a few shining slivers of humanity weaved in. Because you know what, I don't believe every single German was evil. Some were good. Some were kind. Some were rebellious against their own country. That's what this novel tries to explore. Quite possibly the best and in a way, worst, part of this novel is the way the lives of Jews and Nazi's during the Holocaust are portrayed. I've read my fair share of WII and Holocaust novels, but this one was utterly heartbreaking. I've never read such a novel that goes into such terrifying detail as this one does. (I know they exist and I'm sure there are plenty--I just haven't read those ones). There were literally moments I had to put down the book and walk away for a moment because what I was reading was so disgusting, so vile that I couldn't bear to read one more second. It's almost worse to read a novel where you know the events were actually true because you can't imagine how such evil, terrible people exist. My grandfather fought in WWII and liberated two concentration camps and it's not until reading this novel that I realize how huge that is. What a magnificent evil he helped squash. What an incredible future he gave to the survivors.
I haven't even touched on the "forgiveness" theme that is the belly of the novel... I guess because I'm still grappling with it. What would I do if I were faced with the same issue Sage is? Could I forgive someone who aided in the genocide of millions even if the individual amount of lives they took is far less? Could I forgive someone was directly linked to trauma of a relative? Is it even MY place to give forgiveness? What about the plea to help kill? Could I do that as well?
I don't know. That's what I gleaned about myself by the end of the novel. I don't know these answers. I've had a hell of a time trying to figure it out though. I hope I never have to be put in the position Sage is put in because it's an awful position to be in and one without an answer or solution I'm afraid.
Sigh. There's SO MUCH more I could talk about in regards to this novel, but I've been rambling for way too long about the good things.
Honestly, there's not too much I didn't like about this novel. Mainly they are a couple nit-picky things. As I mentioned, while I like the Sage/Leo love story--I felt that it happened a little quickly. Almost insta-love. One minute they're working on the case, and the next minute they are in bed together. Granted--the few short days they spend together are intense and emotional...and the sexual tension and attraction is evident BUT. I still think the relationship was a little rushed. On the other side of the coin, we have Sage and Adam. Adam is married. But unlike most of the stereotypical relationships like this one in novels, Adam seems different. Yes, he says he will leave his wife but that it's "complicated" and yes he says he'll "file for divorce," but it's the other things about him, the subtle things that make me think he truly does love Sage.
Also, in Jodi Picoult fashion--there are multiple POV's in this novel and I don't think all of them were necessarily...Leo's for one. I really enjoyed his character, but Picoult is a skilled enough writer to show his personality and quirks through Sage's eyes. I really don't think Leo's POV added anything to the actual story. The "story within a story" POV was a little confusing at some points until I understood what was going on but even then, I think it could have been weaved in better.
Overall, this book was INCREDIBLE. It was addicting, beautiful, horrifying, sad, hopeful and so many other things. It felt incredibly authentic, but I'm not an expert in WWII, so I couldn't say for sure. Honestly, this book SHOULD be a book that everyone reads. If only to get a fictional feel for what the Holocaust was and how it affected the lives of millions. Trust me on this one--this is one of Picoult's best novels. You should read it!