Coming of Age in Arkansas
A Painted House by John Grisham
Yes, Virginia, there really are John Grisham novels that aren’t about lawyers. The first of these draws on Grisham’s memories growing up in rural Arkansas. His protagonist is 7 year old Luke Chandler who dreams of being a baseball star for the St. Louis Cardinals when he grows up. In the meantime, he hopes to earn enough money picking cotton on the family farm this season to purchase a Cardinals baseball jacket.
When not in the field, Luke experiences a series of events that cause him to grow up sooner than he should, including a birth, two murders and a flood. He also becomes aware of prejudice for the first time as he witnesses the town’s attitudes about the Mexican immigrant workers and the hill people who come down from the Ozarks to help with the cotton harvesting in the delta.
He grows to dislike Hank Spruill intensely but has to keep secret what he knows in order to keep his family safe and ensure the cotton gets picked.
This moderately paced, descriptive, coming-of-age novel describes well the atmosphere of early 1950’s rural America and adequately develops the relationships between Luke and the other major characters. This is a good choice when you are in the mood for a leisurely read.
Reviewed by Barbara Evans, First Regional Library
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