By August 3, 2009 1 Comments Read More →

Getting At the “Truth”

In July, my library book group discussed Plain Truth, Jodi Picoult’s absorbing novel about an Amish girl accused of murdering her illegitimate child.  As most Book Group Buzz readers already know, Picoult’s books practically guarantee a lively discussion, and this one was no exception.

One of the group members had come across an interview with Picoult recently published in The New York Times Sunday Magazine, in which the author was asked to comment on the new genre she seems to have invented, “Children in Peril.”  Many group participants had read this article and alluded to it, adding references to another Picoult tale, My Sister’s Keeper, which we had read and talked about two years ago.  My Sister’s Keeper has been adapted for film and is now playing in local theatres.  Some group members had seen it and made a few comparisons to the book (mostly favorable).

It seems as if many readers just can’t get enough of Jodi Picoult, even if her stories tend to be on the somber and depressing side.  One group member proclaimed that Plain Truth was “the best book we’ve read this year,” while another enthused, “I can’t stop reading her books!  I can’t put them down, and when I finish one, I’m on to another!  I don’t know what I’ll do when I’ve read them all!”  Luckily, Picoult seems to come out with a new title every year, but her fans would probably like her to produce even more frequently than that.

The reactions to Plain Truth weren’t all favorable, however.  One reader thought the Adam character (boyfriend of the accused girl, Katie) seemed like a “stalker” — she was bothered by the fact that Adam was over ten years older than Katie.  Another group member said she felt Picoult strains to create controversial stories (on the other hand, that seems to be her “claim to fame”).  Was the ending too obvious?  Some said they guessed “whodunit” early on, which made it less enjoyable to keep reading.

Picoult said in an interview that she wanted readers of this book to learn more about the customs and lifestyle of the Amish, and the group agreed she’d done her homework well — they did discover some new aspects of Amish life through reading the book.  One Amish custom that fascinated many of the participants was the accepted response to an accusation — one must admit guilt, even if innocent, so that the matter can be resolved and the family can move on.

Readers also liked the parallel story of the female attorney defending Katie and her relationship with her lover, which ultimately results in another pregnancy.  This woman then has something deeply in common with her client.  The relationship between the two women helps them both to grow and change, which is undoubtedly the most satisfactory part of the book.

I’ve found that books like this are very popular with my group.  There was a lot of participation, with people wanting to talk at the same time.  As a bit of a joke, two group members had brought me a gavel to help control the talkers, and to maintain order.  I used it, to good effect.  So beware — if you’re considering discussing a Jodi Picoult novel, you may need a gavel, too!



About the Author:

Ted Balcom lives in Arlington Heights, IL and conducts workshops on leading book discussions, about which he has also published a book: Book Discussions for Adults: A Leader’s Guide (American Library Association, 1992).

1 Comment on "Getting At the “Truth”"

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  1.' lmkurtz says:

    since your group really seemed to enjoy picoult’s book, i thought you might want to consider another writer, chris bohjalian’s “midwives”. it’s a good read and an even better intrigue of legal issues.
    i really enjoy your book club blog.

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