“A filament of sensation sizzled between them, like a thin strip of kerosene that, for the love of a match, would turn into a wall of fire”
“I don’t post book reviews”, I told myself as I posted this book review. I usually refrain from writing book reviews because after Harry Potter series by J.K.Rowling and The Tudors series by Phillipa Gregory I haven’t read a single book that kept me enthralled in every page, until I picked up ‘Salem Falls’ in March at a summer sale (the tagline ‘It only takes a lie to set a town ablaze’ attracted me) . I had heard praises for Jodi Picoult very often and did superficial research on her works. She mainly wrote about families, towns, couples facing tragic situations- not my cup of tea. I am a magic-realism or detailed-fantasy or thriller-that-makes-me-pee-my-pants kind of reader, my bookshelf has no place for silly family feud. But man, oh man, how wrong I was!
‘Salem Falls’ is about a high-school history teacher called Jack St. Bride- he is only 31, a 4-time football championship coach, a doctorate in History and incredibly handsome. Unfortunately he is also falsely accused of aggravated sexual assault- twice. The story follows Jack’s story with a sense of sensitivity and protectiveness- the same emotions that it ignites in the reader about the character. The first instance when he gets accused is a classic example of how a one sided crush turns into a misunderstanding turns into a rumour that destroys Jack’s life and then ultimately turns into a jail sentence. The author painfully depicts how in the process Jack loses his job, his friends, his reputation but most importantly, his pride
After being released from jail (this is where the book starts, the first story is in flashback) he heads to the closest town Salem Falls. He restarts his life as a dishwasher in Addie Peabody’s diner, becomes her Father’s roommate, becomes her boyfriend until one day they find out the truth. Every one in the town ostracizes him, his customers treat him like a monster just waiting to be unleashed. Their rumours keep on growing and growing and ultimately innocent Jack becomes the hatred of the town. But a quartet of four teenage girls- who are simply looking for a way to create trouble (teenage girls are like that I can assure you, I am one) start looking at him as their target. It does not take long until one of them accuses him of raping her and the town goes berzerk.
The story then follows how Jack’s attorney try to prove Jack’s innocence, how Addie tries to dig up Jack’s past, how her own past catches up to her and how Jack, gradually loses hope. After completing this book (which was a few minutes ago) I felt a sense of relief- the feeling that the characters got what they deserved, that for once justice (not necessarily legal) prevailed. It is not a book like the ‘The Fault in our stars’ that stabs you with a silver dagger and twists it while it’s still stuck in your beating heart. It is a book that slowly, carefully, grows like a cancer in your brains asking you, What is justice? What is truth? Is anyone ever innocent? It creeps into your veins, runs through your blood and day by day makes you stop believing that life is fair. To find out any more, read the book.
The language is not challenging, the characters are not difficult to understand- I kept on reading until my eyes were sore and my neck hurt. I have to say there was not a single moment in this book when I yawned- right from Jack’s university days when he first feels protective about another girl to the his time in jail when his trivia knowledge saves his ass (literally), every single story was beautifully mapped, stunning executed and made you feel more and more sympathetic about a man who was being punished for a crime he didn’t commit. It is a powerful mixture of how we lie to convince ourself that we are loved and then that lie destroys someone’s life. Right from Catherine Marsh- the soccer team captain whose one-sided love gets Jack convicted, to her over-protective Reverend Father, right from Addie Peabody- an intelligent and creative girl who gets stuck in Salem Falls because of one death after another to Jack St. Bride- a man who is about to spend 20 years in jail simply because he didn’t love an arrogant and stubborn teenage bitch, every single (minor and major) character leaves a mark on you.
A heartbreaking love story, a suspenseful courtroom drama, a high-paced thriller- ‘Salem Falls’ by Jodi Picoult gets full marks from me (and I never give anyone full marks). Definitely read it and let me know what you think about it! Now if you excuse me I have to read every single word Jodi Picoult has ever written.