Plain Truth - Jodi Picoult

Plain Truth another loan from my mother. I think I have said this before, but I love visiting my parents and browsing my mother's bookshelf. I get to read books I wouldn't normally buy for myself and I know she loves borrowing from mine for the same reason. I am always surprised to find some really good reads from authors I wouldn't normally look at. This is the second Jodi Picoult book I have read and it was just as good as the first one, My Sister's Keeper. I think I can safety say, I am now a Picoult fan.

Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Crime
Year Published: 2000
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
Rating: 4/5

A shocking murder shatters the picturesque calm of Pennsylvania's Amish country, and tests the heart and soul of the lawyer who steps in to defend the young woman at the centre of the storm... The discovery of a dead infant in an Amish barn shakes Lancaster County to its core. But the police investigation leads to a more shocking disclosure: circumstantial evidence suggests that eighteen year old Katie Fisher, an unmarried Amish woman believed to be the newborn's mother, took the child's life. When Ellie Hathaway, a disillusioned big-city attorney comes to Paradise, Pennsylvania to defend Katie, two cultures collide, and, for the first time in her high-profile career, Ellie faces a system of justice very different from her own. Delving deep inside the world of those who live 'plain', Ellie must find a way to reach Katie on her terms. And as she unravels a tangled murder case, Ellie also looks deep within, to confront her own fears and desires when a man from her past re-enters her life. - Fantastic Fiction

This novel tells the story of two women. First we have Katie Fisher. An eighteen-year-old, unwed Amish woman who is strong in her faith and lives on a dairy farm with her parents. She is the typical baptized Amish teen. Faithful, traditional and plain. That is until she is accused of murdering her own baby. A baby that no one close to her knew she was carrying. 

At the beginning of the novel, we see Katie sneaking off to the barn to give birth to her baby under the cover of night, in an effort to conceal her pregnancy from her family. She then falls asleep with the infant in her arms, praying to god to help her. When she awakes the baby is gone and Katie feels her wish was granted so she stumbles back to bed. The next morning a farmhand finds the baby dead, wrapped in horse blankets and the police are called. No one knows where this baby has come from, until a police officer finds Katie bleeding vaginally on the front porch. She is rushed to hospital where doctors confirm she has recently given birth. Katie however, swears that not only did she not kill the baby found in the barn, but she did not give birth and was never pregnant. Is this a desperate try from a young girl trying to cover up her crime? Or is it the truth?

Enter Ellie Hathaway. The successful, big city attorney and distance relation to Katie Fisher. Ellie agrees to represent Katie's case but to her disdain, finds that one of Katie's parole conditions is that she needs to be watched 24/7 by a family member. As the Amish do not believe in taking part in the American court system, or even fighting for their rights as they would much rather sit back and let life work itself out, Ellie gets landed with the role of guard. 

Moving onto an Amish farm is not only difficult for Ellie, who now needs to learn to live in a different way, but also for the family, who do not socialise with "the English". All of those involved need to learn to live with one another, rethink their preconceptions of the other and deal with the stress of a court case and possible murder conviction. On top of all of that, Ellie comes into contact with an old flame and finds herself rethinking her own life and her future. 

I really enjoyed this novel. It started off as a psychological drama and ended as a courtroom suspense. We learn much in this novel about neonaticide, the circumstances and psychological conditions which drive women to kill their own babies. We learn about how times of high stress can bring on a dissociative state where a person can carry out actions and not know what they are doing. Finally, we learn about the Amish community, their way of life, their values and their beliefs. 

Since I do not know much about the Amish (except what I saw in the movie, Witness) I am assuming that Picoult did her research and this novel pretty much gives a honest picture about this community. The Amish are plain people. They work on the principle that god comes first, followed by others, then yourself. Pretty nice way to live really. They are unselfish, they work hard and family means more than anything else (besides God).

I found it really interesting to read about their values and traditions. Such as, the set of rules they live by is called the Ordnung and everyone in the community must abide by this. Or that once children hit adolescence they enter into rumspringa, also know as their running around years, where teens join Amish gangs and are allowed to experiment with the American culture of cars, drugs, alcohol and wearing non-traditional clothes, until they choose to be baptized and stay with their faith. 

Besides the education about the Amish and neonaticide I received from this book, it was a good mystery. At first I found myself mad with Katie and her denial of the pregnancy. I wanted to shake the woman and tell her not to be so stupid. I really believed that she was just trying to get away with murder. As the book progresses, however, you really start to question what really happened that night. Soon I was second guessing most of the characters wondering if they were the culprit or was it just a sad accident. In the end, Picoult delivers quite a twist! 

Jodi Picoult novels seem to have a formula (if I can assume that from two books) and I quite like it. I am looking forward to reading another one of her books in the future and recommend this book to anyone who loves a good mystery!

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