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Reads Like a Steinbeck Novel. Maybe Grisham's Best Work to Date!

  • Apr 29, 2009
  • by
John Steinbeck is one of my favorite all-time authors (The Grapes of Wrath, East of Eden). Grisham has managed to capture Steinbeck's style and weave a tale that captures the reader right from the first paragraph!

Luke is a 7 year old farm boy who dreams of leaving the farm and playing baseball for the St. Louis Cardinals. His family are cotton farmers and every summer they hire a group of "hill" people and Mexican migrants to help them pick the year's cotton crop. The work is grueling (long hours in the hot sun) and Luke must pitch in. The only respite Luke gets is a trip to town on Saturday afternoons where he can get a coke and see a movie (usually a Gene Autry western or something along that genre).

What happens is that the group hired has a scary dangerous man (Hank) who loves to beat up and maim people, a young girl named Talley who likes to charm young Luke and a simple minded boy (I forgot his name) who decides that he will paint Luke's house (it has never been painted in 50 years and thus the title of the book comes from this).

Luke is exposed to a good deal of secrets (two murders and the knowledge that his brother who is away fighting in Korea may have gotton a neighboring 15 year old pregnant).

The writing is superb and it excellently captures a forgotten time (life on a farm in the early 50's). I liked this book better than Grisham's courtroom dramas and I hope he has some more of these type of novels up his sleeve.

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April 29, 2009
I too was struck by how different the writing was as compared to one of his legal thrillers. This was a great book with substance and depth. Thanks for the review.
April 29, 2009
I also liked this book a lot better than the legal thrillers. I hope he has a few more of these up his sleeve.
More A Painted House: A Novel reviews
Quick Tip by . June 09, 2010
This book was recommended to me by three separate people. It's definately an interesting read.
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About this book


Ever since he published The Firm in 1991, John Grisham has remained the undisputed champ of the legal thriller. With A Painted House, however, he strikes out in a new direction. As the author is quick to note, this novel includes "not a single lawyer, dead or alive," and readers will search in vain for the kind of lowlife machinations that have been his stock-in-trade. Instead, Grisham has delivered a quieter, more contemplative story, set in rural Arkansas in 1952. It's harvest time on the Chandler farm, and the family has hired a crew of migrant Mexicans and "hill people" to pick 80 acres of cotton. A certain camaraderie pervades this bucolic dream team. But it's backbreaking work, particularly for the 7-year-old narrator, Luke: "I would pick cotton, tearing the fluffy bolls from the stalks at a steady pace, stuffing them into the heavy sack, afraid to look down the row and be reminded of how endless it was, afraid to slow down because someone would notice."

What's more, tensions begin to simmer between the Mexicans and the hill people, one of whom has a penchant for bare-knuckles brawling. This leads to a brutal murder, which young Luke has the bad luck to witness. At this point--with secrets, lies, and at least one knife fight in the offing--the plot begins to take on that familiar, Grisham-style momentum. Still, such matters ultimately take a back seat in A Painted House to the author's evocation of time and place. This is, after all, the ...

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ISBN-10: 038550120X (hbk.)
ISBN-13: 9780385501200 (hbk.)
Author: John Grisham
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Doubleday
Date Published: February 6, 2001
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