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From #1 New York Times bestselling author Jodi Picoult comes a compelling and disturbing novel about a prep school teacher accused of rape by a group of young girls, the woman who stands by him, and the repercussions of the case in a small, New England town where the past is only a heartbeat away.

Love can redeem a man...but secrets and lies can condemn him.

A handsome stranger comes to the sleepy New England town of Salem Falls in hopes of burying his past: Once a teacher at a girls' prep school, Jack St. Bride was destroyed when a student's crush sparked a powder keg of accusation. Now, washing dishes for Addie Peabody at the Do-Or-Diner, he slips quietly into his new routine, and Addie finds this unassuming man fitting easily inside her heart. But amid the rustic calm of Salem Falls, a quartet of teenage girls harbor dark secrets -- and they maliciously target Jack with a shattering allegation. Now, at the center of a modern-day witch hunt, Jack is forced once again to proclaim his innocence: to a town searching for answers, to a justice system where truth becomes a slippery concept written in shades of gray, and to the woman who has come to love him.

1.  What role does witchcraft play in the story? Do Gilly and her friends believe that it truly worked to curse Hailey McCourt and heal Stuart Hollings? Or is it a fiction they play along with, like the rape allegation?

2. Jack, Gilly, and Addie are all victims of assault. How do their responses to being attacked differ?

3. Salem Falls is described as idyllic when first seen through the eyes of Jack St. Bride, but Charlie Saxton only sees the worst. Is this a reflection of their respective innocent and guilty consciences?

4. Think about the statue of Giles Courey in the middle of town. When Gilly’s accusations set off a modern-day “witch hunt” against Jack, how does history repeat itself? What lessons, if any, were learned from history?

5. Imagine that Addie had reported her rape. What do you think would have happened? Do you think her rapists would have been treated differently than Jack St. Bride?

6. In general, lawyers in rape cases cannot introduce evidence of a victim’s sexual history. One exception is to suggest that a specimen may have come from a man other than the accused rapist. Yet when Gilly tells Charlie Sexton that she was not a virgin before she was attacked, Charlie does not investigate who else she might have had sex with. Do you think he had a duty to do so, especially since she was a minor? Why do you think he didn’t? 

7. Discuss Amos Duncan. A rapist in both the past and present, he is among the loudest of those crying for Jack’s blood. Do you think he experienced any conflict in doing so? What kind of power did he hold over his daughter and his friends to keep them from revealing his secret?

8. Townsfolk think Addie is crazy because of her continued attachment to Chloe. How might Chloe’s conception have affected Addie’s response to her death? How did Chloe’s life and death affect others, like Charlie and Meg?

9. Jordan swings back and forth between believing Jack. If you were Jordan, would you have been able to represent Jack if you did not believe he was telling the truth? If you were Jack, how would you feel about having to convince your lawyer first, when it is the lawyer’s job to convince the judge and jury of your innocence?

10. Charlie is suspicious of Jack, who is a criminal on paper only. How does Charlie differ from Amos in dealing with his own past crimes? Is Charlie’s eventual expression of remorse good enough?
Photograph © Adam Bouska

Jodi Picoult received an AB in creative writing from Princeton and a master’s degree in education from Harvard. The recipient of the 2003 New England Book Award for her entire body of work, she is the author of twenty-six novels, including the #1 New York Times bestsellers House Rules, Handle With Care, Change of Heart, and My Sister’s Keeper, for which she received the American Library Association’s Margaret Alexander Edwards Award. She lives in New Hampshire with her husband and three children. Visit her website at JodiPicoult.com.

"A frothy brew of mystery, sex, and small-town secrets."
-- People

"Gripping.... You'll be riveted by this multilayeredtale of small-town intrigue."
-- Glamour

"Picoult has carved her own niche with her novels -- one part romance, one part courtroom thriller, two parts social commentary.... She keep[s] the reader constantly guessing."
-- The Dallas Morning News

More books from this author: Jodi Picoult