Review: ‘Plain Truth’ by Jodi Picoult

Plain TruthPlain Truth by Jodi Picoult
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

While I enjoyed the book’s themes, especially the placement of a big city lawyer into an Amish household to supervise the bail agreement of a teenage girl charged with murdering her own baby, the ending did not wash with me.

SPOILERS AHEAD

The book begins with Katie, who has hidden her pregnancy from her family and everyone else, giving birth in the middle of the night in the dairy barn on the farm where she lives. After giving birth, she falls asleep. When she wakes up, the baby is gone. She says “thank you,” as though God turned the events in the barn into a dream by whisking the baby away.

When the baby is found hidden beneath some hay, the paramedics are called, and soon after them the police. Katie denies that she was pregnant, but is tripped up by the fact that she is hemorrhaging badly and is rushed to the hospital where it’s discovered that her condition is one that can occur after giving birth.

She is a likely suspect because she hid the pregnancy, either because she never believed it to be real and/or because having a baby out of wedlock is a much more serious religious issue within the Amish community than elsewhere.

Ellie, the attorney manages to arrange bail, but the stipulation is that Katie must be supervised. So Ellie moves into the family farm where she learns what an Amish household is all about. The family is wary, of course, but friendships develop, especially when Ellie pitches in with cooking, cleaning, gardening, and other chores.

It was noted in the comments after the book’s conclusion that no Amish person is likely to read the book, much less use the Internet to post a review. However, the family’s farm life appears to be to have been realistically covered by the author. So, too, the conversations with Katie as both the lawyer and a psychiatrist talk to her in the weeks prior to the trial about the pregnancy and the fact that she has no memory of what happened in the barn.

As sketchy memories begin to appear, her attorney wants to use an insanity defense and argue that Katie was in a dissociative state, the supposition being that she had completely blocked out any memory of what happened after the baby was born. Katie refuses. Needless to say, this presents substantial problems for defending her at the trial.

The outcome of the trial seems a bit unrealistic but within the reality of the book, it’s believable enough to be satisfying to readers. What does not wash with me is that after the trial is over, in fact, while Ellie is packing her suitcase to leave Katie’s home, Katies’s mother comes into the room and shows Ellie the shears used to cut the baby’s cord. The ending is foreshadowed by the slick use of the word “she” at the beginning of the novel rather than a character’s name as the baby’s cord is cut and then tied off with twine in the barn. We learn that Katie’s mother Sarah cut the cord and hid the baby and the shears.

She has reasons for doing it, tied in part of undergoing miscarriages herself and losing another daughter in an ice skating accident. What seems out of character is that any mother, especially an Amish mother, would remain silent and allow her daughter to go through the stress and agony of a murder charge and the emotional trial. Of course, had Sarah confessed at the outset, we would either have no story to tell–or, perhaps a very different story with less drama to it.

I have given the book three stars even though I feel the ending is a disaster for the plot’s resolution and for readers because up until Sarah comes into the room and tells Ellie what happened, the story is compelling, the characters are well developed, and the writing is sound.

–Malcolm

The Kindle edition of my novel “Lena” is on sale on Amazon for 99 cents throughout the weekend.

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The state with the lunatic fringe on top?

AZ CLAIMS PREGNANCY OCCURS BEFORE CONCEPTION

by Jock Stewart

Phoenix, Arizona, August 28, 2012–An anti-abortion law created close enough to this year’s April Fools Day to qualify as absurd, took effect this month in a state where the powers that be have taken another baby step toward the goal of nationalizing women’s bodies.

The oddly titled Women’s Health and Safety Act states that pregnancy now begins two weeks prior to conception depending on the current phase of the moon and what, if anything, the woman was smoking. Women who listen to music by “such people” as Madonna and Lady Gaga are deemed to be pregnant at all times.

According to sources close to the governor’s office, the law is aimed at those who are still promoting “new age clap trap” about sex, drugs, rock and roll, and the Our Bodies Ourselves philosophy.

The sponsors of the bill stated in a white paper called Honey, here’s the way it’s goin’ to be that many of the law’s precedents can be found in the Book of Deuteronomy, the transcripts of the Salem Witchcraft Trials and in records from Inquisitio Haereticae Pravitatis.

Jonathan Corwin, director of the Arizona Devil’s Magic and Pregnancy Task Force, told reporters that, “our great state believes that what God enriches, no man make take away. The female body is a natural resource that will, in the near future, be placed under state control for the benefit of our children and our children’s children as yet unborn. Those with views slanted the wrong way belong in places like California and Oregon.”

According to Planned Parenthood, the law reduces the time period within which women in Arizona may obtain a legal abortion.

Admitting that policing “the matter” may be somewhat difficult, law enforcement jurisdictions—with the help of federal funding—will soon be certifying neighborhood watch groups, vagrants, burglars and others “who are in a position to know” as Devil’s Magic and Pregnancy Officers who, in technical terms, will keep lists of who’s been “doing it and when.”

“We don’t mind if you do it,” said Corwin. “But just remember, in the State of Arizona, real or imagined pregnancy has no UNDO key.”

Jock Stewart is the alter ego of Malcolm R. Campbell, author of the satirical novel “Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire.”