What would you do if you had a friend who confided something in you that is not just horrific but immoral and illegal?
Would you stay silent, or would you take action?
This is the basic question that Sage Singer, the main character of Jodi Picoult’s novel THE STORYTELLER faces when an elderly man tells her a secret he’s kept for about seventy years. The secret is, to use a term from my grandparents’ generation, “a real doozie.”
The book is striking quite a chord with me. For some reason I’ve always brought out the secrets in people. Even on first meeting, sometimes, a new friend will take one look at me and out pops their whole life story. I’ve never quite known how I can have that effect on people. I don’t like to pry. That could be it. A friend said once, “It’s because people sense you won’t do anything with the information. You won’t use it against them. You don’t ever look for it, either. You’ll just listen.”
Yes – but what if I had to listen to something atrocious? What if what I was told is nothing less than heinous? Criminal, even?
I know me, and I would not be able to stay silent under those circumstances. Ages ago I wrote a blog post about how closely I could identify with the character of “Holly Martins,” portrayed by Joseph Cotten in the movie The Third Man. He, like I, realized that one of his old chums was a denizen of the sewers…and that the situation was beyond bad…
His chum in the movie, called “Harry Lime,” is played by Orson Welles. How does he justify his actions, which are killing people?
“In Italy for thirty years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, bloodshed—but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love, five hundred years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock!”
It’s been said that Orson made that line up himself. What a justification for sociopathic behavior!
Good wins out in the movie. As Dumbledore says to Neville Longbottom in yet another book and movie, “It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to your enemies, but a great deal more to stand up to your friends.”
I don’t want to give too many more details away about THE STORYTELLER because I think spoilers aren’t cool. Suffice it to say the book is a page-turner – but then, I’ve never read a Jodi Picoult novel that wasn’t. I consider her to be one of our best current writers. I would like to recommend THE STORYTELLER for anyone who’s looking for a riveting read.