Plain Truth

Every now and then I like to break up reading one type of silly book, i.e. one by Jill Mansell, with another, i.e. one by Jodi Picoult. Picoult’s novels are not silly in the traditional sense of the word, but let’s just say they’re not particularly difficult to get through.

I picked up Plain Truth from my dear friend’s bookshelf thinking I hadn’t read a good Picoult in a while, and I didn’t even read the back of it before cracking it open. Almost all of her novels deal with a criminal trial, and this one surprisingly involves the Amish. Eighteen-year-old Katie Fisher is secretly pregnant, and one night she sneaks out of her bedroom to her family’s barn to give birth (prematurely), after which she passes out and wakes up the next morning back in her bed completely unaware of what happened, hoping it was all just a bad dream. Naturally it wasn’t, and local Amish boys (including Katie’s boyfriend Samuel) stumble upon the baby’s corpse (sorry, there’s no easy/light way to describe that) wrapped in a shirt in the barn. Cue police investigation. For reasons which I will not describe here out of basic human decency, it becomes obvious that Katie recently gave birth, but after being rushed to the hospital and treated for pregnancy complications she denies ever being pregnant. Ummm…

In another world, Ellie Hathaway (no relation to Anne) is a very successful defense lawyer from Philadelphia. She tries not to feel like too much of a scumbag defending obviously guilty, evil people, but one day she decides she’s had enough. That revelation coupled with her unsuccessful relationship with an older, fellow attorney makes her pack her bags and return to her aunt’s house in, you guessed it, Lancaster (Amish country, for those who don’t know). Oh my gosh, what a coincidence — an extremely rare Amish murder case starts up the same day a fancy city lawyer comes to town? What are the chances!

So as part of Katie’s defense and bail negotiations, Ellie has to live with Katie on her family’s Amish farm completely cut off from electricity and all the other comforts she has grown accustomed to until they complete the trial. This makes it difficult to prepare her case, as does Katie’s complete denial that she ever even had a baby, let alone killed it. Katie’s concerned mother, traditional father, estranged brother, and long-dead sister whose ghost she sees on the family pond (Picoult has a thing for ghosts), and Ellie’s expert witnesses all contribute to a pretty good and juicy story. I will say that one romantic relationship in the book isn’t completely necessary, and I’m not happy about the anticlimactic ending of — SPOILER ALERT! — a plea bargain instead of a jury verdict. I really wanted to know if the jury found Katie guilty or not! (Also, I figured out who really killed the baby, like, halfway through the book, but Picoult doesn’t say it until, like, the second-to-last page. Lame.)

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