Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Plain Truth

Author: Jodi Picoult
Genre: Modern Fiction
Pages: 406
First Published: 2000
First Line: "She had often dreamed of her little sister floating dead beneath the surface of the ice, but tonight, for the first time, she envisioned Hannah clawing to get out."

Synopsis: In a milking barn in Lancaster, Pennsylvannia a dead newborn is found. This news shocks the small community especially when people learn that 18-year old Katie Fisher, an Amish teen, is the suspected mother of the child and it's murderer. Unfortunately Katie doesn't remember ever being pregnant nor giving birth to a baby.

Defense laywer Ellie Hathaway is visiting her Aunt Leda in Lancaster, PA when she hears of the baby's death. Leda, a former Amish woman who was bannished, is also Katie's aunt and asks Ellie to help in Katie's defense. When Ellie moves onto the Amish farm there is a huge culture shock for Ellie. She now must emerse herself into the Amish way of life in order to defend Katie ... who is adamant that she isn't the mother, nor the murderer of the newborn. As Ellie looks into the murder she learns a lot about herself along the way.

My Thoughts: Even after living near a Mennonite community for more than 20 years I honestly have never researched a lot about them. I see and interact with them on a regular basis, but sadly and embarassingly, I did not truly know what the differences were between Amish and Mennonite ... until today when I began to research it more in depth.

From what I have been able to discover, both Amish and Mennonite believe in similar Christian doctrine but interpret that doctrine differently. Amish tend to follow the doctrine verbatim, separating themselves from the English community and may go as far as having untrimmed beards, hooks and pins instead of buttons, no electricity, horse-drawn transportation etc etc.

Mennonites branched off from this doctrine and can vary from 'old-order' (who use horse-drawn buggies, have no electricity etc) to more modern Mennonites who dress as you or I would, use modern conveniences but still attend a Mennonite church.

Ok now that we've had a meagre crash course in Amish/Mennonite differences let's chat about "Plain Truth". I enjoyed this book and found it interesting looking into the lives of an Amish family and see how they live as well as how this particular family and community dealt with the murder and forgiveness. She also brings to light the false notion that the Amish are unforgiving, saintly and live above reproach - something that the Amish are too humble to attempt and don't strive for. This erroneous view comes from the beliefs of English people.

The story itself was good but predictable. There were a couple of storylines in the book that I wasn't sure why they were included. For example, Katie's sister, Hannah's ghost and the whole ghostbuster theme. Katie's loss could have still been shown without a supernatural element. A supernatural element and Amish just didn't work for me in the same book.

Some of the book was a little unresearched or unrealistic. When one of Katie's friends visits the farm she's wearing in-line skates. Ok, fine. But from what I've witnessed on local farms the laneways aren't paved and Picoult has this girl rollerblading down the lane. Hmmm. Little things like that bug me.

Overall a good book with interesting lessons. I found it interesting to see how the belief systems we're raised with influences how we perceive and interact with the world around us. If you're looking for a good weekend read this is a good pick. If you're looking for something a little deeper and more suspenseful take a pass on this one.

My Rating: 3.5/5 stars

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