This past weekend I had the pleasure to attend a book reading/discussion/signing from the author I have looked up to for years – perhaps the writer who has had the most influence upon my own work – Jodi Picoult.
Picoult is in the midst of an international book tour to promote her newest title, The Storyteller.
The synopsis from JodiPicoult.com reads:
“Sage Singer is a baker, a loner, until she befriends an old man who’s particularly beloved in her community. Josef Weber is everyone’s favorite retired teacher and Little League coach. One day he asks Sage for a favor: to kill him. Shocked, Sage refuses—and then he confesses his darkest secret – he deserves to die because he had been a Nazi SS guard. And Sage’s grandmother is a Holocaust survivor. How do you react to evil living next door? Can someone who’s committed truly heinous acts ever atone with subsequent good behavior? Should you offer forgiveness to someone if you aren’t the party who was wronged? And, if Sage even considers the request, is it revenge…or justice?”
Considering the topic, yesterday’s book discussion took place at Congregation Beth Israel, a synagogue in Scottsdale, Ariz. The venue made the event all the more poignant, especially considering that there were Holocaust survivors Picoult had interviewed during her research for the book in the audience. I found myself brought to tears on several occasions as she read an excerpt from the middle of the novel and then gave insight into the true, personal stories of the survivors she had spoken with.
In one anecdote she told, Picoult spoke of Bergen-Belsen- a Holocaust labor/death camp I actually visited in 2006 during a summer abroad with my college studying “Jewish Life in Germany: Past and Present.” Thus, the subject matter, my own Jewish ancestry and my love of this author all came together in this event and in this book.
Lining up to meet Picoult and get my book signed, I kept going over and over all of the things I wanted to say when I got up to the table. It was mostly a jumble of thoughts in my head regarding how she had influenced and inspired me; how her book Sing You Home touched me more than anything because of its LGBT subject matter; how I was an author, too. In the end, I babbled about being a writer and how I’d written to her before.
“I hope I responded!” she laughed.
“Every time,” I assured her! “I just wanted you to know that you are such a role model for me. Thank you.”
It was a brief conversation, but one I will never forget. I didn’t think I could love Jodi Picoult any more than I did, but hearing her speak in person, seeing her passion for her writing and subject matter, as well as for the elimination of prejudice of all kinds – my heart grew even more for this incredible woman.
If you haven’t read a Jodi Picoult novel, I encourage you to do so! She tackles complicated topics that really make the reader think in ways they are not used to thinking. The research she undertakes with each of her books is evident, making the stories and characters all the more rich and well-rounded. Go pick up one of her 23 titles today at JodiPicoult.com.