Terri Ann's Reviews > Plain Truth

Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult
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Jul 09, 09

liked it
bookshelves: reviewed
Read in March, 2008

This is a difficult book to rate in a similar, though less extreme, fashion as was The DaVinci Code. Compelling story, poor writing. I selected this book from the paperback table in Maui because of Ms. Picoult's pedigree, Yale and Princeton, an interest in the story line, and an attraction to her, that should we crosspaths we'd become quick coffee friends.

She's also written 14 novels and been given awards for her entire body of work. Thus, I was shocked by the writing style, which was overly expository and suggested to me a screenplay, rather than a novel. Rather than generating ideas of what the main characters would look like, I rather quickly cast Laura Linney and Oliver Platt in my mind's eye. So many of the passages suggested stage direction rather than supporting the storyline.

The writing also suggested Ms. Picoult was very proud of her research into the Amish (Plain people), and neonatricide. The material wasn't well integrated into the story. It felt as though a narrator would occasionally step out on stage and read from a written page, some notes on one of Ms. Picoult's research topics. Having some knowledge of the Amish, which I assume is an average amount for a relatively well-read America, I found the Amishness of the book far too elementary, so much as to explain that there are Amish people in Pennsylvania, they drive buggies, and wear plain clothing. Rumspringa seems even to have entered into common cultural understanding. The constant use of some Dietsch (Amish German dialect) words, noted in italics, in the midst of "translated" Dietch conversations was trite and annoying.

On the other hand, the story of neonatricide (murdering one's own newly born child) was novel, and I enjoy any fiction to do with the Amish.

Oh, and the resolution of court case was dissappointing.

On a side note, we should have all realized how atrocious the writing in The DaVinci Code was going to be from the title. Properly, it should be The Leonardo Code. The selected title means "The From Vinci Code". Da Vinci is not a last name.

So, great beach read, somewhat of a page turner, not nearly as cloying as The From Vinci Code, but it was no Tom Robbins.
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Terri Ann Holly,

It is disappointing that your response overlooks the critical nature of my review and you've made assumptions regarding my writing ability. I would welcome reading a thoughtful critical retort from you in response to my review rather than a low personal attack. Of course comparing one's writing to another is somewhat subjective, but whether I am able to write a better novel than Ms. Picoult is moot. She, not I, has chosen to be an author of national repute, which has placed her in the public milieu, which naturally attracts criticsm. Such is the nature of the American literary culture. I will say in Ms. Picoult's defense, at the very least, she never began a passage in the novel with the verbal stutter, "Um".

Niki Forgive me for my rudeness...and my disgraceful start of a response with the word 'um.' Perhaps I assumed that Picoult was a better novelist than you and bristled at your criticism of her. (The assumption is an easy one to make, seeing as she is at the top of bestseller lists and you are not. Is it not natural to assume that Picoult is a better writer than any random, nonpublished person on Goodreads? I shouln't, you are right, have stated it so crudely in my previous response.) I am from the school of thought that if you can't do it better, keep your thoughts to yourself. I realize that I was unnecessarily cruel and I apologize profusely.

Regarding the 'critical nature of your review,' I do have a few things to say. I find Picoult's prose beautiful, and not at all in the category of 'screenplay.' I wish you had given examples of passages that you found lacking so that I could further understand your reasoning. I am a writer, though a young, unpublished, ignorant one. As a writer reading Picoult's novels, I found that there were phrases that almost brought me to tears with their almost poetic grace. I also enjoyed learning more about the Amish culture. I went in with no knowledge of the Plain people, other than the fact that they didn't watch TV. Although I am fifteen and perhaps more ignorant than most about the ways of the Amish, you must consider the fact that Picoult is writing for the general American, not an Amish expert. Is it not understandable for her to then provide us with a rudimentary description of the Amish culture? I, personally, would not have understood nearly as much about the book without that courtesy.

Again, I apologize for my previous rudeness and hope that you can find it in you to forgive my previous lapse in kindness. You seem like a very intelligent person (sorry, making another assumption ;) and I would actually enjoy getting to know you, despite the less than cordial nature of our meeting. The fault of that is all mine, of course. I enjoy a healthy debate, so if you are in need of a heated argument regarding literary works, let me know!

Again, I am VERY sorry.


Terri Ann Holly,

I think it's great that as a young writer you're exploring a variety of writing styles and practicing your critical discourse in forums such as this. Now knowing your age, allow me to share a bit of friendly advice - criticism is not personal. My review was my opinion - not any sort of fact - of the book and writing, not of Ms. Picoult. I'm sure if Ms. Picoult were to read my critique, she would shrug it off and move on.

As a writier, you'll need to develop a tough skin because all of your reviews will never be positive. Someone is going to love your work and someone else will hate it just as much. And, some of those negative reviews will have kernels of truth in them, and some will be pure hog wash. It's difficult to tell the difference between the two, especially if it hurts your feelings.

Make your critical literary eye about the work, not the person, but also make it personal for you. Don't fall prey to liking something only because it's popular. Like it because you like it. Love it because it moves your soul, not because it's on a sales list.

This is America, it's not only okay to disagree, but it's encouraged. That doesn't make you or I a bad person, it just means we have different perspectives on the same thing. Isn't that wonderful?!

Best of luck in your writing and reading.

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