Sunday, March 21, 2010

Salem Falls

Jodi Picoult is one of my favorite authors. She was an accidental find as I've mentioned before. After my recent run-in with terrible books I wanted to read something I knew would not disgust me; I knew Jodi Picoult had enough talent to develop her characters in a realistic and smart way. She takes controversial issues and gives them a voice and a face, making the reader a part of the issue as well. That's part of the beauty of a Picoult book.

Salem Falls is a captivating novel that explores the effects of rape from all different angles. You have different types of victims in a rape case. Each victim type is represented in Picoult's novel:

Addie Peabody. She is an actual rape victim. In high school she was gang-raped by jocks. She shows the effects of a victim but Picoult actually fails to explore her side in quite the extensive way she explores the others. Her daughter, who was conceived in the rape, died and is the only good thing that came out of the experience.

Jack St. Bride. He is the wrongly accused. Victimized by young girls with crushes. One girl actually believes they're in love and it goes too far, leading an innocent man to spend eight months in jail and ruining his reputation and his life forever. The other girl has more malicious intentions but they are never quite discovered until the last page of the book.

Catherine Marsh. The accuser who is in love with her assaulter. Her story is a little unbelievable and I wonder how stupid St. Bride had to be to do any of the stuff he did for her. He's her coach and her teacher, for crying out loud, and he takes her to get birth-control pills once he finds out she wants to go all the way with her boyfriend.

Gillian Duncan. The malicious accuser. Sometimes in rape cases a girl will accuse a man of rape out of anger. The whole book we think this is why Gillian is doing this but then, like I mentioned, the last page gives the reason.

The Fathers. A lot of the story is centered around different relationships which is a trademark for Picoult. A big relationship set that she explores is that between father and daughter.

Jordan McAfee. The defense. I can imagine it would be hard to be a defense attorney especially when defending the accused rapist. Jordan is a somewhat likable character but it is never quite certain whether or not he actually believes Jack. He does his job as a defense attorney but I kept wanting him to say "I believe you."

Matt Houlihan. The prosecutor. He's not a likable character at all and I wonder, still, why Picoult chose to do it that way. I suppose it was to create even more sympathy for Jack, but she tries to create sympathy for him by showing his baby daughter.

Okay. Now with the review.

I don't think this was up there with some of her better novels like Second Glance or My Sister's Keeper, but it was captivating enough that I wanted to know what was going to happen. She makes you care about the characters right off the bat and her dialogue is realistic and intriguing.

There are laughable moments that are not meant to be laughed at. It sounds bad but I laughed when Addie Peabody tells Jack that she was a rape victim. All of it just seems to coincidental and then begins to read like a parable rather than a novel. In essence the characters become too symbolic and archetypal to be believable.

Then there's the Wiccan stuff which is interesting but it seems to take over the story sometimes.

All in all this was all right book. I would recommend it, but it's not her best. If you want to read Picoult I would recommend other books of hers before this one.

(I think I need to come up with a rating system for my book reviews. Just a side note. If you have any suggestions, let me know!)

Ok, on a final note (SPOILER ALERT) I have to say, Jodi Picoult slipped in a nasty little surprise at the very end. I'm talking the last paragraph. I had to re-read it to make sure I read it right.

There's a random scene with Gillian and Amos, her father, that didn't seem to fit (by the way, this book is full of random, seemingly useless scenes namely when Roy Peabody interrupts court to bring muffins. What the--?). At the very end of the book we see Gillian all upset and then her father comes into her bedroom in just a robe and then he kisses her full on the lips. Sick. So you're left thinking...Amos Duncan has been sexually abusing and raping his daughter this whole time. No wonder she has such malicious intent against Jack who represents everything she hates about her father. And she realizes that she can actually control Jack by accusing him of rape whereas she is too afraid to accuse her father. Interesting point but I think she could have played it better than suddenly throwing it in at the last paragraph.

One great thing about this novel is that it's a modern-day witch trial. Picoult says, about the book, that she wanted the witches to have their turn to point their fingers. It's a very cool, modern, and somewhat refreshing take on the Salem Witch Trials but the ending is a little too anticlimactic and predictable with just a random, disgusting surprise at the very end.

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