Salem Falls by Jodi Picoult is a legal thriller, but not really thrilling. It’s more perverse and disgusting than thrilling.
2 out of 10 stars. I barely finished this and it took two months. It was a very slooooow read. Picoult spends a lot of time with minute details that are really unimportant in the grand scheme of things. In this novel she tries to portray paganism in a negative light but she got a lot of the “facts” wrong. No fact checking here, that’s for sure. I was really disappointed.
The novel’s cover is beautiful and that’s a large part of what made me want to check out this book. Unfortunately, the inside didn’t live up to the outside.
Jack McBride is a handsome History teacher in high school when a young student becomes infatuated with him and falsely accuses him of rape. He is accused and arrested and pleas to a lesser offense which still involves time. To me, this made no sense, because the lesser offense still carries a sex offender registry requirement and he knows this is going to ruin his life, particularly since he’s innocent. He loses everything so he packs up and drives cross country to Salem Falls, New Hampshire to start a new life. There he gets a job as a bus boy at Addie’s diner. Jack and Addie almost immediately start a sexual relationship which I find really creepy. He lives in her house too, another oddity. Even after he tells her he is a registered sex offender, she seems comfortable with him in her home and in her diner. Then there’s the backstory on Addie. She was gang-raped at 15 years old by the Sheriff, Charlie, and the town’s leading businessman, Amos. She became pregnant and had a daughter named Chloe who died at age 6 when she contracted bacterial meningitis. Addie is still grieving.
Meanwhile, Amos’s daughter Gillian, Charlie’s daughter Megan, and their friend Chelsea are dabbling in Wicca paganism. If you know anything about Wicca it follows the rule “do no harm”. It is a non-harmful form of magic. What these three girls are doing is not Wicca at all. It causes a great deal of harm to a lot of people. They’re actually dabbling in a combination of voodoo and black magic, not even close to Wicca, so Picoult was way off base on that one. (Picoult is infamous for getting her facts wrong on a lot of important topics.) The girls cast several love spells and create poppets and charm spells. That means they create physical charm bags full of items that represent the person they wish to cast the spell upon and sometimes these charm bags look like little people (aka voodoo dolls or poppets). Jack McBride comes into town the first night they cast the spell so of course Gillian assumes this is a sign from the Goddess and the God that he is meant to be with her. She throws herself at him and he rebuffs her advances because she’s just a kid and he’s in love with Addie. Gillian does not take rejection well. While her father Amos and Megan’s father Charlie are riling up the town against Jack for being a convicted sex offender, Gillian and her new crew are stripping naked in the woods, casting spells, and creating a fake crime scene to falsely accuse Jack of rape. :0
When the cops come to arrest Jack, Addie doesn’t believe him. She doesn’t believe a girl would lie about something like rape because she was once raped. Although Gillian and Megan’s dads gang-raped Addie at 15, she is still clueless that Amos and Charlie are pedophiles. She eventually changes her tune as the trial progresses and it becomes clear that Gillian is lying. By the end of the novel it’s clear that Amos is raping his daughter and has been since she was a little girl. She seems okay with it, though, which makes no sense at all. She has a chance to get out, to report him, and she doesn’t take it. :0
2 out of 10 stars. The court case or trial part was sooooo boring. The rest was not believable at all. If you’re going to hop into bed with someone, then I would hope you have trust in them, so why would Addie not believe him? She believes him enough to give him a job, bring him into her home, and have a sexual relationship with her, but not enough to stand up for him? I don’t think so.
Reviewed by Colleen.