by Jodi Picoult
Publisher; Washington Square Press/USA/2002
Plot; Jack St. Bride is innocent. He never touched the girl. She imagined it all, hallucinated it.
After eight months in prison, for a crime he didn't commit, Jack must start his life over. He jumps in a taxi and heads for a small town he remembers from his past, Salem Falls.
Once there Jack finds work as a dish hand at a diner run by Addie, a woman who has suffered an immense loss. She is known by the locals as being a crazy woman, but to Jack she is nothing but accepting and generous.
Through work and a developing relationship with Addie, Jack is able to reach some level of normalcy. Until the town finds out about his past conviction.
How will a group of teenage girls, a coven, cause a stir in this small town?
How will the daughter of the towns richest businessman cause the cauldron to bubble and the new witch hunt to begin?
My Thoughts: This book is now high up on my list of favourite reads. Not only is it intelligent and thought provoking, but it is entertaining and emotive.
This is the first Picoult I have read, and if her other books are as powerful as Salem Falls, then I understand her popularity.
What I really loved about this book was the occasional sentimental moments. For instance, the image of a young man and old man, sharing a house, pretending to hate each others company and yet, every morning the old man rises and sets a place at the breakfast table for his young house mate. Moments like that all combine to make this book a truly beautiful read.
I also really enjoyed the characters. For Jack St. Bride, the central figure of this story, you can feel nothing but sympathy. This man, with a brilliant mind and a true compassion for his students, is ripped from his life and relationships because of the whims of a teenage girl.
Then there is Addie, the unfortunate diner owner who lost her young daughter and is now left to pick up the pieces of her life, while dragging around her alcohol pickled father.
Even Gillian, the almost villain of the story, you can feel compassion for in the end.
Each character slowly, and beautifully, has each layer of their personality and history exposed, revealing an enthralling cast of people. A cast of characters you cannot help but become addicted to, not wanting the book to end.
The writing itself is immaculate. It flows steadily over the story and gently lulls you into the town of Salem Falls, slowly revealing, piece by piece, the mystery and enchantment.
I really could recommend this book to anyone. The romance of the story would attract those with a warm heart, the mystery would attract the detectives out there, the magic would attract the Gothic fans and the emotions would attract just about everyone.