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A Painted House Great read therapeuticcompellingenjoyable and a moving storydeterminationtwists and turns to hold your interest to the endwell written paperback John Grisham’s legal thrillers were a big part of my high school reading repertoire A Time to Kill The Firm The Client; I read them all and looked forward to each new book as part of my summer reading list After a while Grisham’s books became formulaic and rather than anticipate his next thriller I put him aside for years choosing instead books with a literary bent John Grisham the baseball fan? Most men of his generation are but I did not make the connection until Grisham came into the Cubs television broadcast booth during a game to promote his new book Calico Joe which featured baseball and the Cubs front and center As much as Grisham enjoyed taking in Wrigley Field he grew up in the south as a die hard Cardinals fan While Calico Joe had been a thought provoking book I found out from friends in the baseball book club that Grisham had written another book featuring baseball only this book was biographical in nature as it takes the reader back to the south in the 1950s when cotton was still king and the Cardinals were the only baseball team that mattered Still starving for baseball I decided to pick up A Painted House and view the world from John Grisham’s childhood point of view In 1952 the Mexicans and hill people arrived on the same day The Cardinals were six games back of the Dodgers with six weeks to play the season all but over To seven year old Luke Chandler baseball was his world The only child of cotton farmers living outside of Black Oak Arkansas Luke’s year centers on cotton and baseball season He constructed a makeshift field in the front yard and played catch with his father and grandfather almost every night We find out that both his father and grandfather had what it took to be major leaguers but after serving and being injured in World War I and II respectively their baseball dreams were cut short although his father could still play well Luke on the other hand dreamed of getting off the farm He was not going to plant cotton for the rest of his life because he was going to to St Louis and play for the Cardinals every boy’s dream during that era In the meantime Luke would have to settle for a Cardinals jacket from the Sears Roebuck and Co catalogue If he picked enough cotton during the harvest he would have enough money to purchase the same jacket that all his favorite players wore The thought of wearing the same jacket as his idol Stan Musial was enough to get Luke through another cotton harvest even in a year when the Cardinals would not win the pennant Although Grisham tells this story through the eyes of a child A Painted House is not without controversy Small time farmers like the Chandlers rely on hired help to get them through a harvest Each year Black Oak families hired both Mexicans and hill people from Ozark country In 1952 the Chandler’s hill people invited trouble The Spruill family set up their camp on the Chandler’s front yard the place where Luke had designated his baseball field The family did not know their place and expected Luke to respect them as elders even though every hill family in the past treated their employers with reverence Hank Spruill was a menace and scared not only Luke but everyone in Black Oak His sister Tally was seventeen and invited Luke on many an adventure that was not appropriate for child viewing That was just the hill people as Mexicans brought their own set of problems to Black Oak including the inevitable showdown with the hill people leading to tension during the cotton harvest Yet for cotton farmers this is the risk they took when hiring help each year although how many years the Chandlers would farm remained to be seen Luke’s mother was a city girl and educated She did not expect to live on a farm for her entire life nor did she expect her son to be a farmer She grew up said Luke in a painted house After his father was injured in World War II he moved with his new wife to his parents’ farm to assist with the farming Although married for ten years one could see that the tension was always there as it was a foregone conclusion that one day they would leave Her pride and joy was the garden that could feed the entire Black Oak for an entire winter Yet one could sense that Kathleen Chandler wanted perhaps to teach school in a city or to give a better life to her son This would never happen in Black Oak where the biggest thrills were going to the general store once a week and the annual Baptist vs Methodist picnic and baseball game Kathleen desired a life where her son could attend Major League Baseball games and where his schooling was not interrupted each year by the cotton harvest From the first descriptions of Kathleen Chandler one could sense that this entire story was looking back at 1952 through Luke’s point of view and that eventually his family would leave the farm Grisham had to create tensions from both the harvest itself and outsiders to make this happen Grisham takes a page from his formulaic thrillers to tie this book up neatly Each event that occurs would be a blip in a larger community but dominated the chatter in Black Oak for weeks Grisham himself grew up the son of cotton farmers and then left to attend law school deciding on writing for his profession One could tell that he wrote from the heart for this book but being used to his thrillers still wanted all the plot lines to end without controversy One could sense that slowly the future was coming to Black Oak when Luke got to watch the 1952 World Series on a neighbor’s new television set; however it was still too slow for his mother A Painted House takes a look a southern farming community during a simpler era The entire book was told from a seven year old’s point of view and was comprised of simple sentences that did not take much effort to read One gets a glimpse at how it must have been for Grisham growing up so one can appreciate how much effort it must have taken him to achieve academically to make it to law school Although not a literary gem it made for relaxing reading on a lazy baseball starved summer afternoon 35 stars This was such a horrible book It had potential I kept thinking the story would come around but once I got 23 way through the book I knew there was no room left for a story I finished it anyway and was really disappointed There is absolutely NO story Nothing We are introduced to this family and the other characters for no reason It's almost like the author had great ideas for characters but couldn't come up with a story lineIf you've never read Grisham and this is your first book PLEASE don't judge him by it This is by far his worst book in my opinion An incredibly wholesome down to Earth All American tale Inspired by his own childhood in Arkansas A Painted House is John Grisham'S first major work outside the legal thriller genre the genre for which he is so well knownGrisham’s trademark is suspense If this isn’t a legal thriller does the book at least have suspense? Yes but only to the extent you can see the events of the summer of 1952 through Luke’s eyes He is the central protagonist He is seven and it is he telling the story In my view Grisham captures remarkably well the world of a seven year old a cotton grower’s son living in the South in the 1950s The longer I could stay in Luke's head the longer I enjoyed the book Occasionally though I was jogged from Luke’s head back into my own back into an adult’s way of thinking The strength of the novel lies in its ability to show you the events of Luke’s summer through his eyes not your own The events of that summer are not light and frivolous They go beyond what a child of seven can be expected to fully understand There are brawls and deaths the birth of an illegitimate child tornados rainstorms and floods The floods threaten economic ruin to the cotton growing families There are also love affairs and a carnival and jokes and pranks There’s a Baptist priest preaching sin and damnation The fictional town where these people live is Black Oak It is situated in the Arkansas Delta near the St Francis River a real tributary of the Mississippi The farmers grow cotton There is Luke and his family sharecroppers and migrant workers from Mexico and the Ozarks These are people struggling to survive All are attempting to eke out a living as best they can in a world where cotton prices credit the weather and the availability of labor are vital factors over which they have little controlThrough Luke’s eyes the summer can be seen as a succession of secrets If I were to give the book a title it would be The Summer of Secrets A Seven Year Old's Summer from the Cotton Fields of Arkansas Luke has been raised not to keep secrets at least not from his parentsBeside capturing the mind of a child the author also captures well the class hierarchy in a small southern farming community Everyone is fully aware of their social standing Even a seven year old will be aware of this too but a seven year old is not going to analyze or philosophize A child cannot be expected to draw adult conclusions That the book’s narrator is a child of seven thus limits the scope of the book On the other handthat the book has a young narrator makes it suitable for young adults and kids I think the events as they roll out will interest such an audience than they did me I became bored The audiobook is narrated by David Lansbury His reading reinforces the child perspective The whole feel of the book became too childish for me Lansbury's narration makes not only Luke but also his mother and grandmother sound like kids His reading was not to my taste The most I can give the narration performance is two stars If you are looking for a Grisham book that is not a legal thriller my GR friend Philip recommends theseSkipping ChristmasBleachersPlaying for Pizzaand maybe The Last JurorI thought I would pass this information on to you Thank you Philip For being from John Grisham this was such a great book For a long time I've enjoyed his legal thrillers but after a while I suspected each book would be exactly the same as the last with the only difference being the plot Granted that's one of the reasons I liked his novels because I could trust they would be consistently good When this book first came out I couldn't wait to read it and I fell in love with his ability to tell a heartfelt meaningful story having nothing to do with law I liked this book so much that I even recorded the Hallmark channel original that was made of it I was wary when this book came out doubting Grisham could pull off historical fiction Well he absolutely nailed it It’s obvious Grisham drew from his personal experiences growing up in rural Arkansas This is a heart wrenching story of an impoverished farming community It’s got it all destitute share croppers migrant farm workers a sweet young boy who lives for baseball a devastating flood and a mentally unhinged murderer thrown in for good measure I wonder if Grisham had written this under a pseudonym if it would have been taken seriously Who knows even ranked as one of the great American novels it was that good Plus it inspired me to getting around to giving my house a fresh coat of paint 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 three weeks to go and the season looked hopeless The cotton however was waist high to my father over my head and he and my grandfather could be heard before supper whispering words that were seldom heard It could be a good cropThus begins the new novel from John Grisham a story inspired by his own childhood in rural Arkansas The narrator is a farm boy named Luke Chandler age seven 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 itFor 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 he finds himself keeping secrets that not only threaten the crop but will change the lives of the Chandlers forever ©2000 2001 Belfry Holdings Inc P2001 Random House Inc Bantam Doubleday Dell Audio Publishing a Division of Random House Inc A surprisingly good book For me anyway because usually I'm not into the legal courtroom thrillers which this book is not so I have avoided Grisham And I have to also humbly admit that I have only read one of his novels The Firm and I liked it So I think I will give the guy a chance and add another of his books I only read this because my mom recommended it and I felt like I needed to reciprocate because she usually reads my recommendations Well thanks mom This was a pretty darn good read There were some thrilling moments in the story but mostly it was just a down to earth story about a family's struggle and eventual overcoming of life's hardships Even though there were a couple of pretty harsh moments in the book I think I would have to call this a 'feel good' story It's easy to read entertaining and I would recommend it to any of my friends Generally Grisham is known for his legal thrillers but A Painted House is one of his works that slightly divulged from that path and took of a dive into mystery territory From the perspective of a young boy growing up in a uaint 1950's community the book tells a tale of simple wishes and troublesome events but what makes A Painted House really stand out is how well Grisham's book portrays the south in an authentic and endearing way Contrary to the stereotype of trailer park rednecks this book really shows the true beauty and character of the south in all its scenery colourful characters and life Capturing an earnest time of an honest farming family A Painted House is impossible to put down most timesWhile sometimes a bit too gushingly sentimental this book is one of Grisham's original works and definitely a great one It just goes to show that he isn't limited to legal fiction and that anybody can expand their talents into a new style of writing

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