Just call this Jodi Picoult week in my life. . . .
So far, having read a grand total of two of her books, I think I understand why Picoult's book are holding such a strong appeal for me. Each of her characters is like a real person. No one is the "bad guy," and no one is the "good guy." Everyone is complex, and everyone has different thoughts and situations happening in life that others can't see from the outside. Just like people in the real world, and something too easy to forget when you're caught up in your own problems and even just daily living. Life is difficult, and no one really knows anyone else very well.
In the beginning of Salem Falls, we meet former teacher Jack St. Bride as he leaves jail after serving an eight-month sentence for having a sexual relationship with one of the teenage girls he coached for soccer. He wasn't actually involved with his student, but, as we learn later in the book, he also hasn't lived a perfect life. He did hurt people in his past; he's not an innocent victim.
Jack lands in Salem Falls and gets a job as a dishwasher in Addie Peabody's cafe. Addie, too, has her ghosts, including the memory of her daughter, who died at the age of ten, that Addie still talks to and prepares food for every day. Of course, Jack and Addie become involved, and their problems really begin with the town's fears about Jack as a sex offender and a teenager named Gillian's interest in Jack, control, and Wiccan.
The sections involving Gillian and her three friends, who are learning the arts of Wiccan, is really interesting. Not surprisingly, considering their age, they turn more to the darker side of witchcraft that involves retribution. Just as with Alex Rivers in Picture Perfect, Picoult has crafted Gillian as a very charismatic, though troubled, person able to strongly influence those around her.
Everything comes to a head when Gillian accuses Jack of raping her, leading to Jack's return to jail, the investigation, Addie's exploration of Jack's previous legal trouble, and a trial.
Hands-down, the very brief final entry of Salem Falls involving Gillian, though completely expected from previous information in the book, is one of the best, most chilling, in realistic ways, endings I've ever read.
My overall rating of Salem Falls is an A-.