Yes, I'm still working my way through Picoult's books (I have 3 left currently). This one sets itself up on a great premise. A man who has been recently released from prison sets up a life for himself in a small town. He was a teacher. He served time after being (falsely) accused of statuatory rape. As word gets out that there is a sex offender among them, the townspeople do their best to make them get the message that he is not wanted in their town. They are trying their best to maintain the look that nothing like that would ever happen here. As you read you begin to discover that the perfect small town is not perfect after all. There are many secrets hidden in this town.
This book does a lot of good in paralleling. It parallels the witch hunts of the past (1600's) to the witch hunt of the present (going after our main character). It parallels a falsely accused rape with a real one. It sets several father-daughter relationships in juxtaposition. There's a lot more to this book than first meets the eye.
Modern day witchcraft does take place as part of the storyline. I think it's a pretty accurate depiction of wicca and some of the things that happen. I know Picoult did her research well for this. I am not a fan of wicca myself. I know people who have practiced it. I do believe that there are powers out there that we know very little about and that we shouldn't be involved in. I live my life according to the teachings of Christ and the only spirit that I want working in my life is the Holy Spirit. I guess I just mention this as there were parts of this story that made me uncomfortable (spellcasting) - I wondered how much of what I was reading were real spells and if there are any affects by reading them. I don't know the answer to that. But I did pray often as I read this book.
The most relavant and interesting part of the story to me was the notion of a teacher being falsely accused of statuatory rape and being convicted for it. It sounds far fetched - why would someone make something like that up? right? Well, the truth is is that it happens more than we would like to admit and I've seen how it has affected people's lives. I know of one young teacher who ended up leaving the school district he was working in after a student accused him of sexual assault. He didn't do it. The only thing he did was turn her down. He decided to leave out of kindness for her. He didn't want to drag her down and become a big city show, so being young in his carreer he started fresh somewhere new. I know another teacher who is a wonderful man and had to leave his job while an investigation took place regarding an accusation. Again, he was innocent, but of course the rumours fly and it takes it's toll.
Many young men in particular have to be so careful. Teachers, pastors, coaches any one that could be a target for attention from a young girl can become a mess. They have to make sure that they are never alone with any of them, ever. Never leave yourself in a vulnerable situation.
Why do these girls do this? Often, girls who accuse someone have had something terrible happen to them , but not neccessarily from the person they are accusing. Often, they have felt slighted in some way by that person (perhaps they had been turned down by them) and turned the anger they feel from one situation and put in onto this one. I know grown adults who are so kind and wonderful with kids who have had kids say to them "I'm going to get you for this" when they have been disciplined and then make some terrible accusation. Of course, that adult needs to be taken out of contact with these kids when the accusation is made - we need to protect our kids! Unfortunately we live in a fallen world where there are a lot of perverts out there. And I want to make that clear. Not every accuser makes it up - by a long shot! I feel terribly for anyone who has been abused (sexually or otherwise) and my heart and soul cries out for them with rivers of tears and heartbreak. But likewise, there are people out there who do make things up, for whatever reason. And my heart breaks terribly for the person they hurt in the process. It also hurts for that child because somewhere, sometime, something has happened for them to act in such a manner and that isn't right either.