So my first book of the year was Jodi Picoult’s Salem Falls. I know what you’re thinking, “Jodi Picoult?! Psh. An Oprah writer, cranks out similar novels, etc.” And I hear you, I really do. There was a review for Salem Falls by a reviewer of the Dallas Morning News, “Picoult has carved her own niche with her novels — one part romance, one part courtroom thriller, two parts social commentary….She keep[s] the reader constantly guessing.”
Really anonymous Dallas Morning News? Picoult kept me guessing? It’s hard to keep the reader guessing when the author gives away virtually all information prior to the second chapter of the book. In addition, when all of the author’s book follow basically the same formula, the reader gets bored.
All that in mind however, I found Salem Falls relatively entertaining. The general plot of the novel is that of main character, Jack St. Bride, a teacher previously convicted of a sexual assault of a minor, who attempts to start his life over in Salem Falls. From there, the plot takes off with a slew of characters (sometimes hard to keep up with so have a pencil and pad handy to take notes) and history repeating itself. Enter in some court room drama, love interest, and controversial social topic revolving around some moral or ethical topic and, sure enough, you have yourself a Jodi Picoult novel.
What makes Salem Falls fall into league with Picoult novels like My Sister’s Keeper is the parallel between Salem Falls and The Crucible by Arthur Miller. If you haven’t read The Crucible, I highly recommend reading that before reading Salem Falls, as I feel it will enrich your experience while reading it. It was more entertaining for me to draw parallels between Picoult’s characters and Miller’s than to read the Picoult formula.
Side note, if you are the type of reader who doesn’t like to be given all information at the beginning of a book, I would tread carefully and with an open mind while reading Salem Falls. While most information is given at the beginning of the novel, some backstory is given in flashbacks, signature of Picoult’s typical literary style. The “twists” that Picoult threw in were pretty predictable and, though designed to shock, seemed forced and as I said, predictable.
It should also be noted that this book fulfills every possible criteria of the term “chick lit.”
All that in mind though, Salem Falls was a decent read, with a believable and honest main character who you find yourself rooting for throughout the whole novel. Picoult also delicately handles the subject of sexual assault and the “mob mentality” with a new set of eyes. I recommend purchasing the book group version of the novel because there are some interesting interview questions with Picoult at the end.
Hope you will stop by any local Half-Price Books where the novel can usually be purchased for about $8 while Barnes and Noble has the novel for about $15.
I give this novel 7 out of 10 bookworms.