Tuesday, July 04, 2006

My Gut Reactions To Salem Falls: A Novel by Jodi Picoult

Salem Falls
Originally uploaded by Heidi Meeley.
WIth the word all over the street about best selling author Jodi Picoult taking over the reigns as Wonder Woman writer with issue 6, I decided to run to Borders yesterday and pick up a book by said author to get a taste of her style. Since I had initially posted that I would, I felt compelled to follow through.

I looked through her books and picked the one I found most compelling based on the description on the back jacket. To be honest, most of the jacket descriptions were off-putting to me as they were pretty much a set up for what appeared to be a depressing read. Many of the books appeared to be with dealing with the aftermath of a social injustice or a tragedy, and it didn't fit the mood I was hoping to experience on the 4th of July.

I finally found Salem Falls. The book jacket read as follows:

"A handsome stranger comes to the sleepy New England town of Salem Falls in hopes of burying his past: once a teacher at a girl's prep school, Jack St. Bride was destroyed when a student's crush sparked a powder keg of accusation. Now, washing dishes for Addie Peabody at the Do-Or Diner, he slips quietly into his new routine and Addie finds this unassuming man fitting easily inside her heart. But amid the rustic calm of Salem Falls, a quartet of teenage girls harbor dark secrets-and they maliciously target Jack with a shattering allegation. Now, at the center of a modern-day witch hunt, Jack is forced once again to proclaim his innocence: to a town searching for answers, to a justice system where truth becomes a slppery concept written in shades of gray, and to the woman who has come to love him."

Damn. Now this looked compelling.

I started reading the book last night a 8 p.m. and wasn't able to put it down until 1a.m., due to sheer exhaustion. I picked it up again around 2 p.m today and finished it about fifteen minutes ago. I am a fast reader, and will probably read it again before the day is over, or the week is done, just to confirm my gut reactions.

Salem Falls is a compelling, credible read. I fell in love with the characters immediately and felt transformed into their world. The writing was not over polished, making it easy to follow; yet the descriptions were so detailed that I never lost my way. The lead female character Addie was strong in every way without being over-tough. She had struggled with immense tragedy and come through scathed but wisened. Jack St. Bride, the male who the book centers around, is careworn but resigned. Their scars show in many invisible ways, and the way in which Picoult weaves their lives together is true to life.

The thing that was great about Salem Falls was that there were always small secrets that would creep into the corners of each page, easing themselves into a reveal when the time was most ripe. I felt like I had a personal stake in getting these characters to the safest resolution, which was a satiating feeling.

Picoult kept the most startling reveal for the end; but when the reader was let in on it, the subtleness and the softness with which is was told made the impact that much more jarring.

Standing in Borders reading the book jackets, I thought I was going to hate Picoult's work. Sitting here today at my computer, I have completely reversed my opinion.

Of course, it is one book, and one example of her style, so I can't predict the future that is Wonder Woman. I can only guess that Picoult will use the sensitivity she brought to Addie to serve the Amazon better. The biggest drawback I see is that the hard, heroic side of Wonder Woman will be lost to all soft edges and corners.

I read the post that included Picoult's interview. Readers are rightfully concerned at her unfamiliarity with Wonder Woman and the fact that she is relying on her young son for character help. Hopefully the Picoult that writes this comic book will also be the author who so carefully researched Salem Falls before turning it into a stunning piece of work.

After reading Salem Falls, I will venture into Borders later this week to try another one of her books. I will not be so skeptical with book number two, but there is a definite fear in my bones that I will be disapointed. I will keep you posted.

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