Don't Let the Bonnet Fool You: Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult

September 18, 2012 Mystery, Religion 15

I read a lot, obviously,  but I also watch a lot of television. I’m only human. Sometimes I watch cheesy reality television. My latest fascination has been Amish: Out of Order on the National Geographic channel. It’s a reality show about a bunch of people who have left the Amish and are trying to adjust to life in the outside world.

I’ve read a few novels by Jodi Picoult, but my favorite by far has been Plain Truth. It’s about an Amish community being shaken by a shocking crime. As I’m watching my Amish reality show, I find myself saying things like “Ah yes, Rumsrpinga.” Or “listen to their odd accents- they speak a particular dialect of German in addition to English, and due to their seclusion it has morphed into nearly its own language entirely…” Clearly I am an expert in all things Amish thanks to Jodi Picoult (I’m not an expert in anything, but I did learn a lot from this book.)

Don’t let the bonnet fool you. That Katie Fisher is a sinner, yo.

Plain Truth centers on an Amish girl named Katie (I swear this is not the only reason I like this book.) Katie is 18 and unmarried, but appears to have given birth in a barn (a colossal no-no in Amish-ville. They know good and well how babies are made, and shenanigans of that kind are NOT okay amongst the unmarried.) The baby is later discovered by a farmhand, dead. The cause of death is unclear.

It’s difficult for me to write this review without making it a mess of spoilers, and I like this book enough to not want to ruin it for anyone. I’m going to try to focus the Amish-ness of it all instead of spoiling all the saucy bits for you. Not only is it incredibly rare for an Amish girl to get pregnant out of wedlock, Katie appears to have no memory of the conception or birth. That certainly doesn’t help her case when she’s put on trial for the murder of the newborn. It throws the whole community into a tizzy, because the Amish are also devout pacifists. A murder charge?! Against an Amish girl?! Inconceivable!

All I really knew about the Amish before I read this is that they were a quaint religious sect who didn’t use electricity and built high quality cabinetry. I mean, most people know that the Amish dress differently, they drive horse buggies instead of cars, and they make gorgeous quilts, but I don’t think most of the world really pays attention to the religion itself. It can be beautiful and incredibly harsh all at the same time. The Amish are a very peaceful people- they don’t participate in violence and are very focused on the health of their overall community. It’s also a very simple way of life, so it sounds idyllic when you’re up to your elbows in credit card statements and emails.

It has a darker side as well. School is not allowed beyond the 8th grade, which makes it very difficult for those who leave to find gainful employment. Many sects shun those who choose to leave the religion. Like for real. Hardcore shunning. You decide to leave the church and you’re completely disowned by your family and the only life you’ve ever known. You can’t even go home for Christmas. Can you even imagine how much that would suck? No matter how jacked your family is, they’re still your family. Only now, they’re forbidden to talk to you, because you’re going to hell. Way harsh. (The Catholic guilt complex has nothing on Amish shunning. I’m just saying.)

Jodi Picoult takes you into this world through the eyes of an outsider, Katie’s lawyer. The lawyer comes out to the farm to live with the family while working on the case. Eventually, we get to the bottom of Katie’s story. How she came to meet an outsider. How she became pregnant. How she was confused and in denial about the whole process. What really happened to that baby in the barn.

Like I said, I don’t want to ruin the ending, but there are quite a few twists, turns, and discoveries made through the course of this novel. Courtroom drama isn’t normally my thing, but I was so enthralled learning about Amish culture that the Law and Order rigamarole didn’t phase me. It’s definitely worth the read. If you’re looking for something a little different (and you haven’t been reading a bunch of Jodi Picoult, because she can get a wee bit formulaic…) give it a shot!

15 Responses to “Don't Let the Bonnet Fool You: Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult”

    • wordsforworms

      Hi Alison! Welcome! It’s always good to hear I’m not alone in my favorites :). At least this one didn’t make me sob uncontrollably like My Sister’s Keeper

  1. Ashley

    Katie, have I told you how much I love you and your blog? Well I do! This book is currently waiting in my kindle for me! Thanks for the review!

  2. emily

    When the boys were in the NICU this year, we had a neighbor baby that was Famish (I believe….at leastwise that’s what the nurses told me.). Their dialect is very different. She sang to the baby every day and it was beautiful! But they had no insurance (obviously!) And were paying cash for their stay…and wanted that baby released ASAP! It was very interesting to hear their struggles from living in what I consider the modern world.

    • wordsforworms

      Oh my gosh, I can’t even imagine life without health insurance. Especially for a NICU baby. Odd piece of trivia- did you know I was a NICU baby? In the early 80s they didn’t test moms for Strep B and I got really sick. Luckily I was a chunker and pulled through. I’ve been freakishly healthy ever since. I hope Gus and Keld have the same luck!

  3. June

    I love this book! It’s my second favorite Picoult book, and it was my first adventure into Amish fiction. I am fascinated by their lifestyle and have been trying to find more books in this genre. But, I’ve been generally disappointed with the others that I have read (they’re kind of duds in comparison). Have you seen that show on TLC called Breaking Amish? I started watching that and have like it so far, but the previews for the rest of the season make it look like it kind of turns into a Real World type reality show, which is lame.

    • wordsforworms

      Okay, now I need to know what your favorite Picoult book is. And yeah, I saw the previews for Breaking Amish, but with new seasons starting in primetime, I figured I’d have to catch it in weekend marathon form. That’s how I got started on Amish: Out of Order.

      • June

        Ahh yeah it is hard when those shows air in primetime. I don’t know what I’d do without my DVR! My favorite Picoult book is Nineteen Minutes (the one about the school shooting). However, I read it in high school so maybe I just liked it because it was relevant to me at the time? You’re totally right that her writing gets very formulaic if you read too many of her books in a row.

  4. Pants Pie

    This is one of the first Picoult books I read, and I can’t even remember the ending! How horrible am I? My fave of hers is ‘Handle With Care.’

    p.s. Totally love those Amish reality shows. You should check out American Colony: Meet the Hutterites if you haven’t yet. Brian & I are pretty obsessed.

    • wordsforworms

      You’re not horrible! But I’ll whisper it to you…(the Amish mom did it!) I’ve totally watched the Hutterites too! They’ve got some wicked hair going on. I think I could rock a babushka. What do you think?

      • Pants Pie

        I definitely think yes. Brian is fascinated with their hair- wonders how they do that haha.

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