Salem Falls

Salem Falls

First edition
Author Jodi Picoult
Country United States
Language English
Publisher Simon & Schuster
Publication date
23 April 2001
Media type Print (Hardcover & Paperback)
Pages 434 pp
ISBN 0-7434-1870-0
OCLC 45556191
813/.54 21
LC Class PS3566.I372 S26 2001

Salem Falls is a 2001 novel by Jodi Picoult about what happens to a person when he is given a label and not allowed to escape it.

Plot summary

Jack is a very highly educated high school teacher at a private school for girls in New England. When Jack is falsely accused of having an inappropriate relationship with one of his students, he pleads guilty to a lesser charge and is sentenced to eight months in prison.[1] Jack's mother, a crusader for women's rights and running an improvised "halfway house" for prostitutes, refuses to believe his claims of innocence and abandons him.

After serving his sentence, Jack wants to have a fresh start, which he finds when he wanders into a diner in Salem Falls, New Hampshire. Without revealing the details of his past, he is hired on as a dishwasher, assisting the owner in the kitchen. He begins a romantic relationship with Addie Peabody, the woman who co-owns and operates the diner with her father and is mourning the death of her young daughter, Chloe, from bacterial meningitis at six years old.

Under New Hampshire law, Jack is required to register with the local police department as a convicted sex offender. As this is a matter of public record, soon the entire town becomes aware of his past. Addie Peabody does not change her attitude towards Jack.

The novel also revolves around local teenage girls who experiment with Wicca: manipulative, disturbed Gillian, daughter of Amos Duncan the most prominent businessman in Salem Falls; Chelsea (in whom Jordan McAfee's son, Thomas, takes an active interest); Whitney and Meg take an interest in Jack. Although he does his best to stay away from them, one night he accidentally stumbles upon them in the woods while they are celebrating the Wiccan holiday of Beltane.

Because of his past and the prevailing attitude in Salem Falls that Jack should not be there, he is quickly accused of sexually assaulting Gillian. Due to his intoxicated state at the time, Jack is unable to recall where he was that night.

Jack is defended by Jordan McAfee and assisted by Selena Damascus. Throughout the trial, Jordan manages to cast reasonable doubt on Gillian's testimony. Meg, however, confides in Addie that she remembers Jack touching her in a sexual manner. Addie believes her because she thinks that "no woman would lie about something like that", and takes Meg to report the incident to policeman Charlie, who is Meg's father.

Clues begin to unravel that Gillian has been lying about the assault. Sources tell that she and her clique were taking drugs on the night of Beltane that cause hallucinations. The initial blood screening when Gillian was given a rape exam showed no evidence of drugs in her system. Jordan does not believe this and hires a private toxicologist to run tests on the blood samples, which reveal extreme amounts of a hallucinogen. It is also discovered through her previous psychiatric records that Gillian was known for being a compulsive liar as a child after the death of her mother.

Chelsea gets an attack of conscience, though, and mails "The Book of Shadows" (a witch's handbook, and proof that they are part of a witch's coven) to Thomas, who takes it to Jordan. Jordan then uses it against Gillian, who claims she "didn't want to be labeled a slut".

Jack is pronounced not guilty. After the trial, Meg reveals to Charlie that Gillian convinced them to make it all up, as a game, to see if they could ruin his life because Gillian was attracted to Jack and he turned her down. Her reports of Jack having touched her inappropriately are revealed through flashback to have been accidental contact with her breast while saving her from a fall. Charlie reluctantly agrees to protect her.

It is revealed that Addie, too, was gang-raped at sixteen by Charlie and Amos, so therefore Addie never knew the true identity of Chloe's father. Charlie apologises and Addie appears to accept this. Jack offers to move with Addie to New York, to reconcile with his mother. She agrees.

Jordan and Selena - who have been battling their mutual attraction - get together. It is revealed that Chelsea and Thomas conspired - via witchcraft - to do so.

The final twist is saved for the final paragraph, when it is revealed that Amos has been raping and otherwise sexually abusing his daughter, Gillian, since she was young, and as the novel ends, seems to continue doing so. It then seems likely that the semen found on her thigh is his, not Jack's.


Film adaptation

The film debuted November 2011 on Lifetime Television. Filming started August 10, 2011, according to Picoult.[2] The film stars James Van Der Beek, Sarah Carter, and Amanda Michalka.[3] Some scenes from the film were shot in and around the town of Fergus in Centre Wellington, Ontario.[4]

Book & Movie Differences

1) In the book, Jack's surname is St. Bride. In the movie, it's McBradden.

2) In the book, Catherine's surname is Marsh. In the movie, it's Meadwell.

3) In the book, four girls (Gilly, Chelsea, Meg, & Whitney) practice witchcraft. Whitney is not a character in the movie.

4) In the book, after his prison stint, Jack tells a cab driver to stop in a random New Hampshire town—which turns out to be Salem Falls. In the movie, Jack is driving to California.

5) In the book, Addie and Jack meet when Jack goes into the diner to ask about a help-wanted sign. In the movie, they meet when Addie's father causes a car accident which Jack is involved in.

6) In the book, Jack cleans up Chloe's bedroom and Addie gets mad. This doesn't happen in the movie; he's more understanding of Addie's wish to pretend Chloe is alive.

7) In the book, Addie was gang-raped at sixteen and wasn't positive about who Chloe's biological father was. In the movie, Amos was the only one who raped her; she was raped right after she turned seventeen.

8) In the book, Selena helps Jordan with Jack's case. Selena is not a character in the movie.

9) In the book, the bookstore is called Wiccan Read and the employee's name is Starshine. In the movie, the bookstore is called Crystal Cavern Bookstore and the employee's name is Carol.

10) In the book, Gilly cuts her hair after Beltane. In the movie, she adds dark streaks.

11) In the book, Meg remembers Jack touching her and Addie takes her to the police. The touch is later revealed to be accidental contact with her breast when Jack was saving her from a fall. In the movie, Meg remembers Jack touching her; she only tells Gilly, who slaps her and says Jack never touched her.

12) In the book, Jack goes to trial and is found not guilty. In the movie, he doesn't go to trial.

13) In the book, it's hinted at the end that Amos has been raping Gilly for years. In the movie (with Addie's support), Gilly recants her accusation against Jack and tells the police who really raped her. Jack gets released and Amos gets arrested.

14) In the book, Gilly's mom died when she was eight. In the movie, Addie tells Jack that Gilly's mom left town when she was young.

15) In the book, Chloe died from bacterial meningitis when she was ten; at the time of the book, she's been dead for seven years. In the movie, she died from bacterial meningitis when she was six; at the time of the movie, she's been dead for almost three years.

16) In the book, Jack is a huge Jeopardy fan. There's no mention of this in the movie.

17) In the book, Jack is rebellious when he's in jail awaiting trial; he refuses to put on the orange jumpsuit, isn't allowed visitors (due to his noncooperation), and is taken to solitary. In the movie, he only refuses to put on the orange jumpsuit. In both the book and movie, he eventually does cooperate.

18) In the book, Jack moves into Addie's house when his room above the diner catches on fire. In the movie, his room doesn't catch on fire and he moves into Addie's house when they start seeing each other.

19) In the book, the New Hampshire sex offender code is 651-B. In the movie, it's 671-B.

20) In the book, Catherine (who is sixteen) recants her accusation at Jack's trial; she admits that she lied about them having an affair. In the movie, she's not old enough to recant without her parents' permission (her eighteenth birthday is in two months), but her father won't let her recant. However, she's willing to tell the truth as soon she's eighteen.

21) In the book, the waitress' name is Darla. In the movie, her name is Maggie.

22) In the book (after Jack is found not guilty), Meg tells her father (a cop) that Gilly made up the rape accusation because she was interested in Jack and he turned her down. In the movie, it's revealed through a conversation with her friends that Gilly made up the rape accusation.

23) In the book, the school where Jack taught is called Westonbrook Academy. In the movie, it's called Westbrook Girls Preparatory School.

24) In the book, Jack asks Addie if she believes he's innocent; she says she doesn't know, but she wants to believe him. In the movie, she does believe he's innocent.

25) In the book, Gilly spills sugar on the table and Jack tells her that she's making a mess. In the movie, Gilly hides the sugar packets from the container on her table and she asks Jack for more. In both the book and movie, Gilly does these things purposefully so she has an excuse to talk to Jack.

26) In the book, when Addie pretends Chloe is alive, the diner staff humour her. There's no mention of this in the movie.

27) In the book, Jack has a fight with Addie (over him cleaning Chloe's room). She tells him to leave, and he goes to a bar and gets drunk. In the movie, he goes to a bar and gets drunk after he sees negative graffiti about him spray-painted outside the diner.

28) In the book, Jack is beaten by five men (two are identified as Chelsea's father and Whitney's father), and Addie thinks the police were involved. This doesn't happen in the movie.

29) In the book, Jack has an aversion to being touched; the aversion goes away as he and Addie begin a relationship. There's no mention of this in the movie.

30) In the book, Jack steals some of Chloe's French fries (he missed breakfast at the prison because it was served when he was being processed to leave) and Addie tells him not to eat her meal. Later, when he eats a burger, he sets a few of his own fries and his pickle on her plate, saying he owed her. In the movie, he tries to clear her plate of pancakes and Addie tells him not to take away her food. When Wes tries to convince Addie to take a walk with him (and he doesn't want to take no for an answer), Jack gives Addie a ketchup bottle and says it's for Chloe's fries.

31) In the book, Delilah (a chef at the diner) tells Jack that Chloe's dead. In the movie, Roy tells Jack that Chloe's dead.

32) In the book, during a town meeting Amos calls, someone says he doesn't want a rapist living in Salem Falls. In the movie, the man refers to Jack as a pervert.

33) In the book, Jordan sarcastically applauds Amos' intent to run Jack out of town; he says parents should start punishing their kids before they do anything bad, Charlie should start cuffing people, and run license plate numbers and issue tickets at random because eventually someone will get in trouble. In the movie, Jordan says he needs to go home and punish his son for the things he hasn't done, that he's always thought Charlie should start arresting more people, and that he should shut down his law practice—since if they know who's going to commit a crime, they can run them out of town before they do and a legal system isn't really needed.

34) In the book, Jordan's son Thomas tutors Chelsea in Algebra. In the movie, he tutors her in Chemistry.


  1. Catherine Hinman (June 22, 2001). "`Salem Falls,' by Jodi Picoult; (June, 2001)". The Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved 2008-09-10.
  2. Picoult, Jodi (2011-07-14). "Salem Falls". Facebook. Retrieved 2012-08-19.
  3. "Salem Falls". IMDB. Retrieved 2012-08-19.
  4. Robinson, Mike (2012-02-17). "Salem Falls - but Fergus rocks at premiere". Wellington Advertiser. Retrieved 2012-08-19.
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