Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult
Reviewed by Tish Hagee-Tucker, Radiant Lit
Genre: Mystery/ Thriller
Publisher: Washington Square Press
Publication Dates: August 7, 2007
Eighteen-year-old Katie Fisher finds herself in the middle of a scandalous infanticide on her family’s Amish farm. Not willing to admit that she is pregnant, she delivers the premature baby alone in the dairy barn and then drops from exhaustion. When she awakens, the baby is nowhere to be found, so Katie goes about her daily chores as if nothing has happened…until a big-city detective lands right smack in the middle of her farm.
A dead newborn is discovered underneath a pile of horse blankets, right in the middle of Amish country.
Each family member and neighbor assures the detective that no one on the farm has given birth. Katie confirms with the detective that she hasn’t given birth either, but her body tells a different story. Once Katie is treated at the hospital for the after effects of delivery, she is arrested and charged with murder.
Still, Katie has no memory of what happened to the baby. She can hardly admit to herself that she was pregnant. After all, being pregnant before marriage is not the Amish way. But surely, her boyfriend, Samuel, will believe that the infant is not hers.
Memories of her baby sister’s drowning begin to invade her every waking moment, and keep her up at night. Katie becomes confused. Was the baby in the barn real, or was it just a dream about Hannah’s death once again. Was Hannah’s ghost haunting her? Was she being punished by God for not watching her sister while she was skating on the ice?
Not long after the drowning, Katie’s brother, Jacob, is ex-communicated from the Amish church for wanting to study past the eighth-grade level approved by the ordnung. Katie’s Aunt Leda, is ex-communicated from the Amish church for marrying an outsider. So Katie’s mother sends her out for sporadic visits to her brother’s apartment at State College for six years without saying a word to her controlling husband.
Katie and her “mam” tell her “dat” that she is visiting her Aunt Leda, and no further questions are asked until the dead baby shows up on the scene. How could Katie have become pregnant when this was not the Amish way? After the truth is revealed regarding multiple visits to a shunned brother, Katie’s father approaches the church leaders who force her to kneel and confess to killing the baby in front of all baptized Amish congregants.
Katie doesn’t believe she has killed the baby, but this is the Amish way. You do what you are told by the church, as this is God’s will for your life.
The Amish way does not include becoming involved in lawsuits either, and it is Katie’s ex-communicated Aunt Leda who comes to the rescue and hires a prominent attorney to represent her as the infanticide case moves forward through the Englischer court system. Her parents do not attend the trial, and Katie feels alone, but honor-bound to tell the truth. But what is the truth?
In a shocking twist, the end reveals what actually happened to the infant and Katie’s legal punishment. She is forgiven by the Amish church, and welcomed back after a period of time under the bann. Accepted back into her family once again, Katie finally resumes her Plain life as an Amish woman. But would the hole in her heart ever mend?
Jodi Picoult weaves a beautiful tapestry in this Amish tale, just as beautiful as a quilt found in Dutch Pennsylvania. Her amazing talent to research the depths of a religion, way of life, or the structure of a family relationship is the icing on the cake. This story isn’t just another plain tale of a young woman’s struggle to find out who she really is. This is a story of how several families work together from various segments of society and help to raise this Plain (Amish) girl.
Rated PG-13 — The subject matter discusses some sexual content and has a few vulgar words sprinkled throughout. But this does not affect the book or storyline in a negative way.
Review copy purchased by reviewer.