The hill people and the Mexicans arrived on the same day. It was a Wednesday, early in September 1952. The Cardinals were five games behind the Dodgers with two weeks to go, and the season looked hopeless. The cotton, however, was waist high to my father, almost over my head, and he and my grandfather could be heard before supper whispering words that were seldom heard. It could be a "good crop." Thus begins the new novel from John Grisham, a story inspired by his own childhood in rural Arkansas. The narrator is a seven year old farm boy named Luke Chandler, who lives in the cotton fields with his parents and grandparents in a little house that's never been painted. The Chandlers farm eighty acres that they rent, not own, and when the cotton is ready they hire a truckload of Mexicans and a family from the Ozarks to help harvest it. For six weeks they pick cotton, battling the heat, the rain, the fatigue, and sometimes, each other. As the weeks pass Luke sees and hears things no seven year old could possibly be prepared for, and finds himself keeping secrets that not only threaten the crop but will change the lives of the Chandlers forever. A Painted House is a moving story of one boy's journey from innocence to experience.
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Worlds away from his usual legal dramas, this departure for John Grisham has produced a wonderfully evocative novel. Set in the late summer of 1952 in the cotton-growing regions of Arkansas, the story is told through the eyes of eight-year-old Luke Chandler. Born and raised on his grandfather's cotton farm, like his father before him, he dreams of a world beyond the cotton fields, only existing in his imagination from what he has heard on the radio. But first and foremost is the cotton picking to be done before the rains come.. Outside help in the form of Mexican labourers and hill people is recruited bringing with it antagonism and racism which will eventually culminate in murder. Within 20 pages you are hooked, watching and feeling this tough life through young Luke's eyes. Set against the strict Baptist upbringing of these poor farmers, Grisham gives an intense picture of a hard, insular life where everything revolves around the cotton crop. All the characters are memorable from Pappy who spends his life worrying about the weather to Hank, the Spruill's violent unstable son, to Cowboy the shifty Mexican. And he does not forget the women of this tough world who live in the background quietly ruling the roost and supporting their men without question. A memorable book marking a dramatic change of direction for Grisham - one which this reviewer for one hopes he continues. - Lucy Watson
About John Grisham
John Grisham is the author of twenty-two novels, one work of non-fiction, a collection of short stories, and a novel for young readers. He is on the Board of Directors of the Innocence Project in New York and is the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Mississippi Innocence Project at the University of Mississippi School of Law. He lives in Virgina and Mississippi. His website is www.johngrisham.co.uk
A Painted House by John Grisham
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