Oh Jodi Picoult, I will never stop reading you. You are way too taken with your own metaphors and you lack a basic grasp of How People Act and sometimes you steal scenes from the pile of clichés I keep under a tarp out back, but I can’t say no to drama and your basic recipe is six cups of drama per teaspoon of story.
So! Jack is accused of statutorially raping (i.e. seducing) one of his students, and I am like, Dude. If you are a good-looking male soccer coach in your…let’s say early 30s, how is protecting yourself from this not on your mind at all times? I mean, the girls are SEVENTEEN and I’m not saying that any seventeen-year-old, when faced with a good-looking male soccer coach, is going to drum up allegations of sexual relations but driving one of them two counties over so she can get birth control to have sex with her boyfriend is maybe not your choicest move. NOR IS DRESSING YOUR HISTORY CLASS IN BATHING SUITS AND TOGAS AND TAKING THEM OUTSIDE TO RE-ENACT BATTLES until they are all, quote, rolling around in the field. NOR IS, OH MY GOD, PICKING UP THE DROPPED BRA OF SAID BIRTH-CONTROL STUDENT AFTER SAID BATTLE AND CASUALLY PUTTING IT IN YOUR POCKET INSTEAD OF RETURNING IT TO HER OR THROWING IT OUT. These things don’t necessarily make you a rapist, but they make you LOOK like a rapist, amigo.
That is now officially out of my system, and is all backstory besides. Ok so Jack is accused of rape, his lawyer talks him into plea-bargaining so he has to sign a thing saying he did it even though he didn’t and also has to say so out loud just for less jail time, because the odds of a good-looking soccer coach winning a rape case are apparently nil. And to be fair, that part grates and you are like, Ugh, sorry dude. So he does that and serves his eight months and then moves elsewheres. As one does.
Elsewheres = Salem Falls, where there are both LITERAL WITCHES and a METAPHORICAL WITCH-HUNT because Jodi gets a C- in Subtlety. But before Gillian, the sexy leader of a coven of teenage witches (I forgot, Gillian is a sultry redhead. GOD, JODI, I AM DROPPING YOUR C- TO A D!) with daddy issues (D-!) gets around to accusing Jack of forcible rape (different than statutory! More felonious!), Jack meets and falls in love with Addie, the care-worn but lovely owner of the local diner (AUGH! F! AND STAY OUT FROM UNDER MY TARP).
And once Jack’s Seekrit StatRape charge comes out, Addie is all, Oh right, I haven’t told anyone this but I was raped. That’s how I got that daughter I had who died, which I still have serious baggage about. And it takes her about twenty minutes before she’s all, Come into my house and make un-rapey sexy times with me, to cure my decade-plus of man-fright, and then maybe tomorrow you can move in because your life has been threatened. Which is totally how I imagine the sexually terrified to act? Especially when Jack says things like, ‘I am afraid that once I touch you, really touch you, I won’t be able to stop…You have to believe me, Addie. I would never rape a woman.’ Because the FIRST PART OF THAT CONVERSATION sounds like a man who would TOTALLY RAPE A WOMAN.
And there’s all SORTS of behavioural wtfery up with which I refuse to put. Like when Jack is in plea-bargainy, statutory-rapey jail, and this mountainous man is all, You got a purty mouf and then tries to hrrm hrrm him, and Jack is like Fine but I’m neither going to participate nor resist, the mountain man is like Growwwl very well, I respect you now. Or when Jack *spoiler* goes to trial for the felonious rape, and his judge is a black lady judge who takes her job VERY SERIOUSLY and takes NO GUFF FROM THE MENS because you know how ladies be when they get power, especially when they also black, yet when Addie’s father (who is a sequestered witness, mind you) bursts in on the trial bearing muffins and the DA is all (quite reasonably) THIS IS OUT OF ORDER, the judge is like, Lighten up, yo. I’m not saying I’ve ever had to fight tooth and nail to be taken seriously as a black woman in a profession dominated by white men and that I know what it’s like, I’m just saying *dubious side-eye*
And, ok, I hereby proclaim an embargo on people gazing out of windows while info-dumping. Also, no one is ever allowed to find someone rooting around frantically for a Damning Object and ask them, ‘Looking for this?’ while holding up said Object (unless one is trapped in a Looney Toon, where such behaviour is expected and encouraged).
All that to say, I have read a Picoult before and I will do it again, but always with a double whisky close to hand to stem the rage. Bring on the one about secret Amish pregnancies!