Plain Truth (novel)

This article is about novel by Jodi Picoult. For the film adaptation, see Plain Truth (film). For other uses, see Plain Truth.
Plain Truth

Plain Truth
Author Jodi Picoult
Country United States
Language English
Genre Novel
Publisher Washington Square Press
Publication date
April 3, 2001
Media type Print (Hardcover & Paperback)
Pages 405 pp
ISBN 0-671-77613-4
OCLC 36620856

Plain Truth is a novel written by Jodi Picoult about a murder on an Amish farm, first published in 2001.

Plot summary

The book tells the story of how a dead infant found on an Amish farm shakes the entire community. As the police investigate the death, they discover that the baby was not stillborn, but died shortly after birth. Police find cloth fibers in the infant's mouth and throat, including bruises on the mouth, which leads them to conclude that he was suffocated. An eighteen-year-old, unmarried Amish girl, Katie Fisher, is charged with murder of her newborn son, but denies ever being pregnant. Ellie Hathaway, a top defense lawyer and a distant relative of Katie, reluctantly accepts the case after a confrontation with her aunt (the relative who connects her with Katie by marriage). As part of the bail conditions of the pre-trial hearing, Ellie has to remain on the farm with Katie prior to the trial—a period that lasts several months. A doctor determines that the infant was born prematurely and could have died from natural causes due to listeriosis, a bacterial infection which Katie contracted from constantly drinking unpasteurized milk from their Amish farm. During that time, Ellie begins a relationship with her former lover Coop (a legal psychologist whom she trusts with Katie's interviews), whom she had previously left years before. On the first day of Katie's trial, Ellie finds out she is pregnant with Coop's baby. Coop asks Ellie to marry him immediately, but she defers. After the jury deliberates for several days, Katie cops a plea and is sentenced to one year of electronic monitoring, allowing her to stay at the farm while wearing an electronic bracelet. Katie's mother, Sarah Fisher, gives Ellie the scissors which have been used to cut the umbilical cord, revealing that she knew Katie was pregnant and had gone to her the night she gave birth, though Katie didn't know it. Ellie has an ethical obligation as an attorney to provide this evidence to the police, but opts not to, based on Sarah's plea to her—mother to mother. The novel ends with Coop picking up Ellie at the farm to begin their life together.

Characters in Plain Truth


Publishers Weekly was mixed in their review saying "told from both third-person omniscient and first-person (Ellie's) vantages, the story rolls leisurely through the trial preparations, the results of which are repeated, tediously, in the courtroom. Perhaps the story's quietude is appropriate, given its magnificently painted backdrop and distinctive characters, but one can't help wishing that the spark igniting the book's opening pages had built into a full-fledged blaze."[1] Kristina Lanier was more positive in her review for the Christian Science Monitor saying "Picoult sets a big task for herself in "Plain Truth," but she pulls it off - avoiding sentimentality and even maintaining the cultural tension and thriller-like guessing game into the book's final scenes. Picoult's strength, though, lies in sculpting solid characters and a thoughtful, well-researched, and well-paced yarn." [2] The novel was Book of the Week in the May 8, 2000 issues of People magazine. Their review written by Jill Smolowe said "despite the occasional cliche and a coda that feels artificially tacked on, Picoult's seventh novel never loses its grip. The research is convincing, the plotting taut, the scenes wonderfully vivid. Most impressive, the author gets beneath the uniformities of dress, custom and conduct to paint a unique community--closed to most Americans--in all its social and psychological complexity"[3]

Film, TV or theatrical adaptations

In 2004, the Lifetime television network debuted the television adaptation of the novel, starring Mariska Hargitay as the attorney Ellie Hathaway (changed to Harrison in the film) and Alison Pill as accused and disowned Amish girl Katie Fisher (Fitch in the film).[4]


  1. "forecasts: Fiction". Publishers Weekly. 247 (12): 6. March 20, 2000. ISSN 0000-0019.
  2. Lanier, Kristina (June 22, 2000). "Murder sparks a clash of values in this Amish whodoneit". Christian Science Monitor. 92 (148): 17.
  3. Smolowe, Jill (May 8, 2000). "Picks & Pans: Pages". People; 05/08/2000. 53 (18): 51.
  4. "Warner Home Video Celebrates Mother's Day with a Special Promotion Featuring New Lifetime Original Movies and Classic Movie Favorites". 2005-04-05.
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