This was another book recommended to me by a friend as something I might enjoy reading while on holidays. Ally, my girlfriend, has been telling me for a while that Picoult is a terrific author and if Plain Truth is anything to go by, Alison is right.
This is well-crafted tale, gripping and moving, set mainly in the Pennsylvania, in the Amish community of Paradise, where, one morning, a dead baby is found in a barn. No-one knows how it came to be there and no-one lays claim to the babe. Police are called in and quickly identify not only the young mother, but the shocking possibility the infant was murdered.
In another part of the country, lawyer, Ellie Hathaway, is confused about her relationship and her professional life. As a defense attorney, she’s often called upon to defend the indefensible and, when her last very high-profile case finishes, she needs time out to recoup and rethink all aspects of her life. She feels like her ethics, sense of self and what she wants from life have been compromised. She escapes to her Aunt’s house near Paradise and finds herself drawn into the case surrounding the murder of the baby.
Working pro-bono, she reluctantly becomes more involved than she ever intended when she takes responsibility for the suspected murderer, a young Amish (Plain) woman, Katie Fisher, who is unmarried and maintains, despite all evidence to the contrary, that she never had a baby. Confounded by this teen, as well as by the Amish way of life, which stresses others over the self and work over leisure, she calls in an old friend to help – what she doesn’t yet understand is that the young Amish woman isn’t the only one needing aid.
This book like so many good ones, draws upon a range of genres to tell its tale. I mistakenly thought it was going to be a crime novel and, while a crime does take place, and a portion is reserved for the fascinating unfolding of the case in the courtroom, it isn’t only these things, but so much more. It’s about human relationships, family, the bonds that unite and tear us apart. It’s about choices, love, loss, about humility, community and faith. It’s about the way the modern world makes us selfish and afraid, but also how denial can be both a blessing and a curse. It’s also a novel about generational difference and the power of female friendship and trust.
At the centre of the story are two women – both strong and remarkable but for the moment, lost. The question is, will they let themselves be found?
Looking for a wonderful tale to lose yourself in? This might be it.