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Salem Falls

Salem Falls

  • reading group guide
When Jack St. Bride arrives by chance in the sleepy New England town of Salem Falls, he decides to reinvent himself. Tall, blond, and handsome, Jack was once a beloved teacher and soccer coach at a girls' prep school -- until a student's crush sparked a powder keg of accusation and robbed him of his reputation. Now, working for minimum wage washing dishes for Addie Peabody at the Do-Or-Diner, Jack buries his past, content to become the mysterious stranger who has appeared out of the blue.
With ghosts of her own haunting her, Addie Peabody is as cautious around men as Jack St. Bride is around women. But as this unassuming stranger steps smoothly into the diner's daily routine, she finds him fitting just as comfortably inside her heart -- and slowly, a gentle, healing love takes hold between them.
Yet planting roots in Salem Falls may prove fateful for Jack. Amid the white-painted centuries-old churches, a quartet of bored, privileged teenage girls have formed a coven that is crossing the line between amusement and malicious intent. Quick to notice the attractive new employee at Addie's diner, the girls turn Jack's world upside down with a shattering allegation that causes history to repeat itself -- and forces Jack to proclaim his innocence once again. Suddenly nothing in Salem Falls is as it seems: a safe haven turns dangerous, an innocent girl meets evil face-to-face, a dishwasher with a Ph.D. is revealed to be an ex-con. As Jack's hidden past catches up with him, the seams of this tiny town begin to tear, and the emerging truth becomes a slippery concept written in shades of gray. Now Addie, desperate for answers, must look into her heart -- and into Jack's lies and shadowy secrets -- for evidence that will condemn or redeem the man she has come to love.
  • Atria Books | 
  • 448 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780743422796 | 
  • May 2001
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Reading Group Guide

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 see more

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About the Author

Jodi Picoult
Photograph © Adam Bouska

Jodi Picoult

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-one 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.

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