You couldn’t sleep without a bedtime story.

When you were small, snuggling with your blankie and teddy, a bedtime story was the final cap of your day. Hearing that tale, whether it was on soft lap or soft mattress, read by Mom or Dad, a holiday story or an old favorite, was the best way to ease into a long nights’ sleep.

You almost wish somebody could read to you like that again. It might banish a lot of grown-up woes, unless it’s a story like the one told in “The Storyteller” by Jodi Picoult (c.2013, Emily Bestler Books / Atria, $28.99 / $32.00 Canada, 461 pages).

Everybody in town thought that Josef Weber was a kindly old man.

He’d been a fixture in so many lives: the high school German teacher, a baseball coach, the guy who walked his little dog around town and doted on her with shared treats at the local bakery.

Sage Singer often saw Josef before she went to work on her overnight shift at the bakery, just before she started the tasks that soothed her soul. She knew the recipes for bread by heart–they must’ve been in her genes–and working alone at night suited her fine. Self-conscious about the scar on her face, courtesy of an accident that killed her mother, Sage didn’t want to be noticed anyhow.

But because Mary, her boss, said she needed to talk with customers, Sage befriended Josef, who seemed to be harmless and lonely.

But then he told Sage a story, asked her for a favor, and horrified her. She didn’t want anything to do with the things Josef had said or requested. She fled to her grandmother’s side, for comfort and for wisdom.

Once upon a time, grandmother Miska had been a pampered girl with a happy life, a keen intelligence, and a dream of moving to London to become a famous writer. She’d already started a book, in fact; a horror story based on an upiór story her grandmother had told her long ago.

But upiórs didn’t compare to the horrors that Miska would endure ….

I’m always happy when a book by author Jodi Picoult crosses my desk. I know I’m in for a good read–but this one may top all her other novels.

Typical of every Picoult book, “The Storyteller” weaves together several different characters and a crisis that involves decisions and changes lives. In this case, some of the decisions were made in a different world and a different time, which resonates through the years with brutality, horror and hate. I squirmed, I got teary-eyed, and I have to admit that I had to switch to a different book before I went to bed. I know better than to snuggle under the covers with something so disturbingly powerful.

The one flaw in this book is that there are an awful lot of coincidences in the plot line, but you won’t have time to care. You’ll be too busy thinking about this novel, too busy wanting to get back to it. Yes, “The Storyteller” is a must-read … just not at bedtime.