Salem Falls

by cacophonies

I’ve read a couple of books by Jodi Picoult, and I’ve had mixed experiences. On one hand, the first book I read was My Sister’s Keeper, which has just been made into a movie, and the second was Plain Truth, not quite as riveting, but interesting and addicting all the same. The two books have incredibly unique storylines, and Picoult is a master of interweaving about a zillion different characters into each other and making their individual lives and issues fit seamlessly into the next. The endings have, thus far, both been the type to make you stare at the last sentence for 5 minutes after you read it, and then re-read the last page a few more times to make sure it really happened.

In the other hand, she writes with a style that suggests that she is kneeling down every night before bed and praying to whoever, non-stop, to just please oh please let someone make this into the most cliche Hollywood romantic drama ever made!

After I read Plain Truth and was once again impressed with her creativity, I simultaneously thought that I might never want to read another of her books ever again.

…I went to Target Sunday night and, out of sheer desperation for something new to read, picked up an apparently 8-year-old novel she wrote, Salem Falls.

If you don’t feel like clicking the link, here’s what the blurb on the back of the book says:

(potential trigger warning)

Jack St. Bride was once a beloved teacher and soccer coach at a girls’ prep school – until a student’s crush sparked a powder keg of accusation and robbed him of his career and reputation. Now, after a devastatingly public ordeal that left him with an eight-month jail sentence and no job, Jack resolves to pick up the pieces of his life. He takes a job washing dishes at Addie Peabody’s diner and slowly starts to form a relationship with her in the quiet New England village of Salem Falls. But just when Jack thinks he has outrun his past, a quartet of teenage girls with a secret turn his world upside down once again, triggering a modern-day witch hunt in a town haunted by its own history…

Ooh, interesting, right? If you’re familiar with Picoult’s creative plots and their respective twists, you’ll wonder all kinds of things; is he really as innocent as this blurb would suggest? What on earth could these teenagers be up to? Is it at all possibly that he won’tfall in love with Addie Peabody?

I knew what was coming, though. I couldn’t even get through the first page without reading,

Several miles into his journey, Jack St. Bride decided to give up his former life. He made this choice as he walked aimlessly along Route 10, huddling against the cold. He had dressed this morning in … clothing that had fit him last August. This morning, his blue Blazer was oversized and the waistband of his trousers hung loose. It had taken Jack a moment to realize it wasn’t weight he’s lost during these eight months but pride.

(emphasis mine)

I mean, come on. How… ugh. Gross. I mean, don’t you agree? It’s like she’s trying to write a script for the worst Hollywood movie ever made. Desperately trying so hard that she’s churning out a new book a week, figuring at least one’ll catch on (as it has).

(You can actually read a full excerpt and grasp exactly what I’m talking about if you scroll down a bit further on the Salem Falls page, linked above.)

The thing about this particular book is that it deals with a very sensitive topic; rape. The main characters are a man who I presume thus far in the story to be wrongfully accused of committing it, and his romantic involvement with a woman who was a victim of it (and as a result, impregnated) as a teenager.

This is a touchy issue not only because it deals with rape, but because it also touches on the fact that a man could be falsely accused, what really happened, if anything, and whether it’s ever okay not to believe someone who is accusing another of rape. There are a million different ways that Picoult could totally fuck herself with this plot.

I can’t say much about it yet, since I’n not even half done with the book, but so far, Picoult’s doing a decent job. She’s got a lot of the “evil, young, lusty, conniving woman” implications flying around so far, which is irritating, considering the fact that she’s constantly apologizing away all the chauvinism in her male characters, and the female lead always has something to learn from them all. I don’t recall a male character that is ever anything but heroic in her novels. I do have a feeling, though, that this will change as the book goes on, if I’m picking up on her hints. And I’m sure I’ve guessed correctly, because I was dead-on about Addie being raped, and her daughter being a product of it. How can an author be so delightfully surprising and maddeningly predictable at the same time? I want to throw her books out the window and then run outside and rescue them.

Anyone here ever read any Picoult? Have you seen the new movie?

I’ll write further on how this turned out as I finish the book.

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