From Publishers Weekly
Picoult's new novel (following the acclaimed Plain Truth) is a story about rape and reputation, loosely based on The Crucible. Jack St. Bride comes to Salem Falls, N.H., after his release from prison. The former teacher and soccer coach wants to start a new life following a wrongful conviction for statutory rape. Unfortunately, Salem Falls turns out to be the wrong place to do it. He has no trouble landing a job at the local diner and winning the trust of the diner's eccentric owner, Addie, but the rest of the town is suspicious. Things get dangerous when manipulative 17-year-old Gillian Duncan, whose father owns half the town, gets interested in Jack and tries to seduce him with Wiccan love spells. Then Gillian is assaulted in the woods, and Jack is accused of the crime. As the courtroom battle unfolds, many secrets are revealed, and Picoult's characters are forced to confront the difference between who people are and who they say they are. The difference is considerable: despite the townspeople's aura of virtue, by the end of the book we're hard pressed to find any women who have never been raped or threatened, or any men who are really innocent of violence. While Picoult seems ambivalent about the power of Wiccan spells, she has no doubts about the power of sex and violence to change lives. Some of her characters, though, can be almost disturbingly forgiving. Genuinely suspenseful and at times remarkably original, this romance-mystery-morality play will gain Picoult new readers although her treatment of the aftermath of rape may also make her a few enemies. Agent, Laura Gross. 10-city author tour. (Apr. 10) Forecast: Picoult tastefully tackled touchy subject matter in Plain Truth, but she tips toward sensationalism here. That may gain her readers in the short run, but could undermine her reputation over time.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
When Jack St. Bride arrives in the small town of Salem Falls, all he wants is to escape his past. He's spent the last eight months in jail, after being falsely accused of having an affair with an underage student at the school where he taught. In Salem Falls, he gets a job as a dishwasher at a local diner and tentatively begins a romance with the diner's owner, Addie, who is still mourning the death of her young daughter, born after Addie was raped in high school by three drunk boys. As she and Jack fall in love, they both see hope for the future. But their newfound love is threatened when the residents of Salem Falls learn of Jack's conviction and begin harassing him. When, predictably, a teenage girl accuses Jack of raping her, he finds himself back in jail, fighting a serious charge and the town's prejudice. Addie wrestles with her doubts and memories of her own rape, but she believes in Jack and goes on a quest of her own to find out the truth about Jack's initial conviction, even as the Salem Falls trial opens. Unfortunately, the novel spirals down into cliche, toward an all-too-predictable ending. There are some interesting elements here (such as Addie's inability to accept the death of her daughter), but the novel doesn't rise above its formulaic plot. Still, Picoult's previous novels, including Keeping Faith
(1999) and The
Pact (1998), have garnered a large audience, especially in book-discussion groups. Expect her latest to generate some demand, but buy cautiously. Kristine HuntleyCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved