Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A Time to Kill - Book Review

A Time to Kill is John Grisham's first novel.  It was rejected by 28 publishers before a small pub-house agreed to print a meager 5,000 copies.  (Grisham's second book, The Firm, was the best selling book of 1991, and was on the best seller's list for 47 weeks.) 
Grisham is a Southern boy, and most of his books are based in the deep South - especially Mississippi.  A Time to Kill began this odyssey into rural, southern USA.  It is replete with racial tension and insider looks at traditional stereotypes.  Grisham writes as one who loves the South - and at the same time, as one who sees through its facade of overdrawn strengths and weaknesses, to the soul of the people.
A Time to Kill is built around a simple, heart-wrenching story.  A young black girl is brutally raped by two white "rednecks."  (Grisham freely uses inflammatory stereotyped words - which are also freely used by most folks in the South.)  The girl's father guns down the two offenders as they are leaving their preliminary hearing at the courthouse.  The rest of the book is about two points: (1) Was the father justified? (2) What are the racial implications and ramifications of this trial? 
I wonder if Grisham's stereotypes are exaggerated, and I surely hope some of them are.  But as a Southern boy myself, I know that many of his driving insights (into both the white and the black communities) are uncomfortably close to home.
This is my tenth Grisham book.  He's one of my favorite fiction authors, hands down.  Although the conclusion was a bit disappointing, I would say that A Time to Kill is one of Grisham's best.  The Josh rating: JJJJ.
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