Paperback: 464 pages
Publisher: Hodder (15th Aug 2013)
The small town of Paradise, Pennsylvania, is a jewel in Lancaster County - known for its picture-postcard landscapes and bucolic lifestyle. But that peace is shattered by the discovery of a dead infant in the barn of an Amish farmer. A police investigation quickly leads to two startling disclosures: the newborn's mother is an unmarried Amish woman, eighteen-year-old Katie Fisher. And the infant did not die of natural causes. Although Katie denies the medical proof that she gave birth to the child, circumstantial evidence leads to her arrest for the murder of her baby.
One hundred miles away, Philadelphia defense attorney Ellie Hathaway has achieved an enviable, high-profile career. But her latest court victory has set the sands shifting beneath her. Single at thirty-nine and unsatisfied with her relationship, Ellie doesn't look back when she turns down her chance to make partner and takes off for an open-ended stay at her great-aunt's home in Paradise. Fate brings her to Katie Fisher. Suddenly, Ellie sees the chance to defend a client who truly needs her, not just one who can afford her.
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Review: Warning - mild spoilers ahead.
Jodi Picoult is one of my favourite authors, like everrrrr. I’ve read and loved so many of her books, with some of my favourites including Keeping Faith, Second Glance, Nineteen Minutes and Small, Great Things. She’s an absolutely amazing writer, and when she gets it right, she nails it, fully. But when she gets it wrong.. well she gets it wrong. This book is one of them.
I picked up Plain Truth whilst in my reading slump and thought what better book to get me out a slump than one from Picoult which would surely revive me and leave me reeling. Sadly, this book didn’t deliver on that end, and instead I found myself on the other side of the fence when it comes to her books. Whilst I’ve always firmly been on the love-and-gush side, I’m now seeing from the other side why some have not enjoyed her books in the same way, because they picked the wrong book as an example of her amazingness. This book is one of Picoult’s weaker books.
The premise was promising, every single of one of her books always has an interesting blurb, with a refreshing new storyline, bound to tackle deep rooted issues through the story and book. To me, this one felt like it would dissect and discuss religion, faith, pro-life choices and gives us great depth into Amish culture and what life for them is really like. And it did do that, don’t get me wrong. As someone who has no idea about Amish culture, this gave me good insight into that way of life, the beliefs and ideas behind it, and that’s one thing this author always delivered on - information and depth.
However the characters, the story itself, the execution, I couldn’t say the same for. The pace of this book started really slow and I had hoped the deeper I got into it, the more I would start to like it and it’s just a case of warming up to the story, but sadly that wasn’t to be the case. Above all, one thing that annoyed me the most and continued to annoy me throughout the book and right through till the end, was the main character, Katie Fisher.
As the story goes, police turn up to the Amish village when they hear about a baby that was delivered, with no mother coming forward, and the baby being pronounced dead - whether through natural causes or murder, remains to be seen. When police enquire if there were any pregnant ladies on the land, there is no one - with the only viable suspect being Katie, who though wasn’t seen as being pregnant, is eventually found with a uterus that has recently given birth, and blood dribbling all down her legs. Katie however maintains, throughout this WHOLE damn book - that baby is not hers and she did not have a baby. You hear that? Throughout the WHOLE BOOK. Despite being caught with a recently given-birth-uterus (can’t think of the correct term to explain this) and evidence she had given birth and later on evidence that she had had sex, became pregnant and GIVEN BIRTH - BUT SHE STUBBORNLY MAINTAINS SHE DID NOT HAVE A BABY. Now c’mon, who wouldn’t be annoyed by that, all the way through. It’s one thing to protest at the beginning and eventually succumb once all evidence was presented, but to not just argue against it, but so stubbornly argue against it, really got on my nerves.
Another thing that grated on my nerves about this character, was about how much of a wise-ass she was presented as. When a lawyer is thrown into the mix in the form of Ellie Hathaway, who comes to the town to visit her aunt and gets caught up in this investigation and ends up defending Katie, she see the two starkly different women interact and build a relationship. Katie, portrayed as very much the simple girl, leading a simple life and very determined beliefs about Amish culture, clashes with Ellie, a lawyer from the city, who has honed her career and sacrificed a lot along the way for it. These two very different characters were the perfect opportunity to explore each others worlds and the connections between them, but while Ellie’s character was okay enough to read about and understand, Katie’s wasn’t - she was annoying, stubborn and would answer questions with unnecessary remarks and questions that were an attempt to sound wise and interested, but instead fell flat and felt pretentious.
While this tactic from the author, to end chapters with questions that leave you thinking or statements that leave a mark, often works so well and is one of the main reasons I love her books - just for this story and these characters, it just really didn’t work. Maybe it was because I couldn’t connect in any way to any of the characters or just the story simply wasn’t gripping enough, but either way, I couldn’t find myself getting lost and in love with this story and the writing wasn’t what I was used to from this author. The story itself was very predictable and I had already guessed what had happened - I kept on reading with the hopes it would end differently, there would be a twist to bring it all to justice, but nope. Disappointed on both ends. Instead the ending was so predictable and HUGELY anti-climatic, with so much build up to the moment, only for it to end in such a way.
Not quite the book I was expecting from my favourite author, but I guess you can’t always write amazing books 100% of the time. Disappointed as I was, I know that Picoult has the capacity and ability to write AMAZEBALLS books and this just wasn’t one of the finest examples of that. I picked up and finished another book by her, House Rules, the review for which as always, is coming soon.