Adventures in Experimental Reading
Currently on Loan from the Library:
Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult
The Opposite of Fate by Amy Tan
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton
The Amber Room by Steve Berry
Other Books I’m Reading:
The Johnstown Flood by David McCullough
Sometimes an author comes to my attention simply because they have so many books on my Library’s shelves, and so much press dedicated to their work. Back in my old adventurous days, I would have just grabbed one of these book randomly off the shelves out of curiosity, and started reading. The problem is sometimes when you take that approach you end up discovering and falling in love with Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain, other times you end up awake with nightmares from Cujo. What can I say? I was twelve at the time.
Nowadays I try to do at least some mild research before I pick up a book from an unfamiliar author. In the case of Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult, it worked like this. There was a book group with a Listmania list on Amazon that come up when I searched for Jodi’s works. They had listed several other books that I had read and agreed with them about. They had also read an alternate Jodi Picoult book, but noted it wasn’t as good as Plain Truth. Which the book club thought was one of her best. There you go. Research done. I’m off to the races.
Plain Truth is set in the not at all mythical town of Paradise, Pennsylvania, which happens to be in Lancaster county. Accordingly the book very much about the Amish. Here is what I know about the Amish first hand. When my Grandfather, who was a gentleman farmer in upstate New York, had Amish neighbors he seemed to like them. He liked how polite their children where. The rest of my knowledge is all second had at best. I will say Jodi’s setting seems authentic, as do her descriptions of Amish religious practices. But remember most of my Amish knowledge comes from an episode in Bones fifth season.
The book opens when Katie, pretty, blond, Amish, eighteen, and unwed, leaves her bed one morning, and gives birth to a son in her father’s cow barn. She prays that God will make the baby disappear, and then falls asleep. When Katie wakes up, the baby, and all evidence she’d given birth are gone. Katie assumes that God has answered her prayers, and returns to bed.
Hours later, the men show up to do the milking and discover a dead infant among a stack of horse blankets in the tack room. The baby has been lovingly washed, and wrapped in a shirt. Naturally the men call the police from a neighbor’s phone. The police come out and start an investigation which leads to the arrest of a very ill and obviously recently pregnant Katie for murder.
Meanwhile, Ellie a talented Philadelphia defense attorney has a sudden pang of guilt. She is helping bad people escape justice and making mounds of money as well. So Ellie packs and leaves her long term live in boyfriend for the wilds of Paradise, Pennsylvania, where her uncle has a farm.
Waiting for Ellie in Paradise is her Aunt Leda who was excommunicated from her Amish faith for marrying an outsider. As it happens Leda still has a niece in the Amish Community. The niece’s name is Katie, and she only just got arrested for murder. Leda begs Ellie to represent Katie, and eventually Ellie agrees. Obviously I guess, otherwise it would have been a much shorter book.
The rest of the Plain Truth is an engaging read that held my attention well. There are a couple of unbelievable points in the novel. Katie’s Amish beau who is not the father of the infant pauses at a very odd point to feel up another Amish girl. And the girl is nice to him about it. Which I assure you, I would not have been. Also, possibly the worst legal argument ever presented in a fictional court. Ellie tries to convince the court that Katie couldn’t have murdered her child, because, you see, she’s Amish. This argument is especially ill founded considering the last few pages of the book.
To the good though, I didn’t know who done it until a good two thirds of the way through the book. Which is not a record for keeping me guessing. Still it is very respectable. There is also plenty of romance to go around. More of it Amish in nature than I would have suspected.
A very solid three and a half out of five stars.
Where to read this book:
On the beach. This book will keep you entertained while the kids cover you in sand, but won’t have you so engrossed that the kids have a chance to slip that squid into your beach bag.
I will probably pick up some more of Jodi Picoult’s works in the future. I’m curious to see how Plain Truth measures up. Also, I should really look into something factual on the Amish. Suggestions?