So here it is. Another book by Jodi Picoult. Salem Falls was published in 2001. The story is about Jack St Bride who is was a teacher. The book begins with Jack being released from jail after being wrongfully convicted and imprisoned for sexually assaulting one of his students. Of course, despite being released, he now has to register himself as a sex offender. Jack decides to leave his past life and start fresh. He wanders into the town of Salem Falls in New Hampshire. Jack befriends Addie Peabody who owns a diner in the town and washes dishes at her diner. He slowly starts a relationship with Addie. However, the rest of the townsfolk remain suspicious of Jack. He is after all, a stranger. Who tends to keep to himself.
Jack thinks he is beginning to move on with his life. But then, a group of teenage girls turn his life upside down. Since Jack had been wary of teenage girls since his first encounter, he has avoided advances by one of the girls in this group. Only to result in his downfall. Again. One of the girls who was rebuffed, Gillian Duncan, claims that Jack raped her one night in the woods while her 3 friends were present. Jack unfortunately, cannot remember much from that night but maintains his innocence. It doesn’t help that his own lawyer does not believe him. At first. Being a small town, Jack and Addie are subject to abuse. The girls get all the sympathy. But their stories don’t always match.
Does Addie stick with Jack during his trial? Or will it bring back memories that she has tried hard to forget?
Will Jack be convicted all over again?
And what about Gillian Duncan? Will she get away with her lies?
And why does Gillian do this? What deep and dark secrets is she hiding?
The ending will shock you.
The book questions the issue of ‘innocent until proven guilty‘ because for anyone who has been convicted of a sexual offence, it works the other way round: They are assumed guilty until proven innocent.
Picoult also looks at how some women can easily manipulate the system; a bold move in my opinion. The thing is, I’ve seen this for real. I’ve seen manipulative women/teens. And I feel for the innocent men out there that fall into their trap. I’ve seen teenage girls randomly refer to a male teacher who has been too strict as a ‘paedo’ just as an insult! If someone hears it and takes it seriously, what are the consequences for the bloke??
Finally, she looks at people and society in general. How we judge people based on their past. How we judge people based on a few things. And how there are very few of us that may be willing to give an underdog a go.
It is not as emotionally draining as some of Picoult’s other books. And it is a thrilling ride.
Until next time,
***This has been cross-posted at Bond with Books***