New Hampshire Author's Novel Presents Post-Holocaust Moral Dilemma

03/20/13 12:50PM By Charlotte Albright
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Not many novelists can say that their last seven books debuted at the top of the New York Times best seller list. Jodi Picoult can. 

She's about to leave her Hanover home for another tour for her latest book, "The Storyteller."  

Jodi Picoult is only 46, and already she's written 21 novels. Many raise thorny questions about families and relationships.  Her newest book, "The Storyteller," presents a post-Holocaust moral dilemma. It's about a very old man who befriends a young woman.

"And asks for her help," Picoult said. "He wants to do because he thinks he's been kept alive as a joke, because he used to be a Nazi. He's hidden this fact for years and he thinks he deserves to be punished. What he doesn't know is that this young woman who is his friend happens to have a grandmother who was a survivor of the Holocaust. And so it becomes very much a moral question for this woman. If she helps him, is that mercy, or is it revenge?"

Picoult says the research for this book was grueling, but it also allowed her to meet Holocaust survivors who are living not just in the past, but in the present as well.

"Here are these 90-year old men and women, and what are they talking about?" she said. "Gay rights. Because to them that's one of the things that is a current example of intolerance. And that's what they are championing now because they know that prejudice in any form can be very dangerous."

It can also be fodder for fiction.

Picoult says she knows that some critics will laud her for taking on such a difficult topic, and that others might brand her new book as formulaic.

She says she never worries about how other people react to her work, as long as she writes about what she thinks is important.

She credits an understanding husband and children for supporting her demanding career and tolerating the long book tours. And she says she loves living in the Upper Valley.

"I am a completely normal person, you know," she said. "I mean, I go to the Co-op and the butcher at the Co-op is like, ‘I loved the last book.' And it's like, ‘Oh really? That's so nice to hear.'"

Picoult's butcher-and her other fans-can now find her latest-"The Storyteller"-on bookstore shelves. 

Note: Picoult will give a reading on March 21 at the Maple Street School in Manchester, VT at 6:30 PM.

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