The Caretaker by Anthony Doerr is a moving and shocking tale of Joseph, who lives in war-torn Liberia and finds himself in the USA, Oregon. This is a story of seeking redemption, struggle, and forgiveness with the self. The theme of isolation and loneliness comes out in this story. Civil war breaks out in Liberia, home of Joseph Saleeby. He loses everything that a man treasures and holds firmly to, his mother, country, and Way of life.
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Liberia descends to anarchy and lawlessness, and he runs for dear life and finds himself in a different country, thousands of miles from his. He is on his own, with no relatives or government to call his own. He experiences a new culture, and this leaves him feeling alienated.
This is further worsened by his haunted and violent memories. He was forced to kill a rebel, saw decapitated children, rape, and other unimaginable crimes meted on his countrymen. He has no one to open his heart to, to tell his story; for a story shared is a story half solved? This tears him apart inside. He is a tormented soul who is emotionally isolated. His situation worsens when he loses his job and has nowhere to go.
However, the simple act of burying the hearts of whales and tending to a garden gives him the much needed inner peace he saw desires. He feels as if he has acquired a new lease of life. Belle, a deaf girl, is lonely and depressed and contemplates committing suicide.
She forms a unique friendship with Joseph and dissuades her from committing suicide. Theirs is a story of a confrontation with the self, isolation, and redemption. Haunted by isolation and loneliness in their respective struggles in life, they bond closely. Due to their plight, they create a strong and instant bond, a bond arising from need and not luxury. There’s a particular language, a language of the heart, and this helps them direct their paths of life in the right Way.