Prather’s Pick: Another fantastic book by Jodi Picoult
January 6, 2015
I was running an errand in Craig the other day, and it was stormy. In fact, I was in a hurry, fearing that the weather might worsen and I'd face a blizzard on the way home. So, knowing that I needed a book to review for "Prather's Pick," I checked out the new selections on a book rack at the grocery store. When I saw "Salem Falls" by Jodi Picoult, I grabbed it up. I recently reviewed her latest novel, "Leaving Time," which was awesome.
It turns out that "Salem Falls" has a 2001 copyright, but it is the First Pocketbooks paperback, December 2014. It doesn't matter when it was first published; the novel is a great read.
The novel takes place in Salem falls, New Hampshire, beginning in March 2000. That's when Jack St. Bride is walking along Route 10. He has just been released from jail after eight months. Jack isn't dressed for the weather so his shoes are wet and his trousers are splattered with slush and mud. A taxi pulls up beside him, but Jack doesn't know where he's headed. The driver just tells him to get in.
Jack lies to the driver, saying that he can't remember the name of his destination, but he will recognize Main Street when he sees it. Before long, the cab driver announces that they're in Salem Falls. When they come to a diner, Jack notices a "Help Wanted" sign in the window and tells the driver that this is the place.
Addie Peabody, owner of the Do-Or-Diner, isn't having the best of days. First, the police called to let her know that her father Roy has been drinking again. They arrested him for driving his ride-on-mower in the breakdown lane of Route 10. So Addie had to go get him.
From there, things have just gotten worse. Back at the diner, Delilah, the cook, announces that the refrigerator and dishwasher have died, and none other than the health inspector is sitting at the diner counter. So, when Jack enters the diner, Addie pretends that he's the repairman, and Jack plays right along. The inspector is finally convinced and leaves — for now.
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Because he helped her out, and also because she is in need to someone to wash the dishes, Addie hires Jack without asking a bunch of questions. Jack thinks it's ironic to be working for minimum wage because he has a Ph.D. in history, but he needs a place to disappear until he figures things out, and this is it. First of all, though, he has to run an errand. He goes to the police station to register as a sexual offender.
Before going to jail, Jack was a teacher at a private school for girls; he was their soccer coach, too. Then Catherine Marsh, one of his students, accused him of rape. Jack was advised to plead guilty and take a "deal," serving eight months in jail.
So Jack settles in, but before long rumors start spreading about him. Four high school girls, who consider themselves witches, take notice. Before long, Jack is accused of rape once again, and everybody ends up in court.
There are lots of characters in this novel, and each one has his or her own story, even Addie, who falls in love with Jack.
Picoult is a genius at "crafting" a story. I found myself marveling at the course the book's plot took. Sometimes I went back to re-read parts of the novel to see if I had missed something. There are surprises in the plot; the ending left me with something to "mull over." There is even some humor in the court proceedings — something I didn't expect — like the lawyers eating sandwiches, donated by Roy Peabody, as they questioned witnesses.
I would love to attend a discussion of this book (there are suggested discussion questions at the back) to see what other readers think about the title of the novel and of the quotes taken from "The Crucible" and "Jack and Jill" (the poem) and a lot more.
This must read is published by Pocket Books and costs $7.99 in paperback.