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A Painted House Paperback – Print, February 3, 2004

4 out of 5 stars 1,618 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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 scene of his boyhood, and Grisham waxes nostalgic without ever succumbing to deep-fried sentimentality. Meanwhile, his account of Luke's Baptist upbringing occasions some sly (and telling) humor:

I'd been taught in Sunday school from the day I could walk that lying would send you straight to hell. No detours. No second chances. Straight into the fiery pit, where Satan was waiting with the likes of Hitler and Judas Iscariot and General Grant. Thou shalt not bear false witness, which, of course, didn't sound exactly like a strict prohibition against lying, but that was the way the Baptists interpreted it.
Whether Grisham will continue along these lines, or revert to the judicial shark tank for his next book, is anybody's guess. But A Painted House suggests that he's perfectly capable of telling an involving story with nary a subpoena in sight. --James Marcus --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Who needs lawyers? Not Grisham, in his captivating new novel, now between hardcovers after serialization in the Oxford American. Here there are hardscrabble farmers instead, and dirt-poor itinerant workers and a seven-year-old boy who grows up fast in a story as rich in conflict and incident as any previous Grisham and as nuanced as his very best. It's September 1952 in rural Arkansas when young narrator Luke Chandler notes that "the hill people and the Mexicans arrived on the same day." These folk are in Black Oak for the annual harvest of the cotton grown on the 80 acres that the Chandlers rent. The three generations of the Chandler family treat their workers more kindly than most farmers do, including engaging in the local obsession--playing baseball--with them, but serious trouble arises among the harvesters nonetheless. Most of it centers around Hank Spruill, a giant hillbilly with an equally massive temper, who one night in town beats a man dead and who throughout the book rubs up against a knife-wielding Mexican who is dating Hank's 17-year-old sister on the sly, leading to another murder. In fact, there's a mess of trouble in Luke's life, from worries about his uncle Ricky fighting in Korea to concerns about the nearby Latcher family and its illegitimate newborn baby, who may be Ricky's son. And then there are the constant fears about the weather, as much a character in this novel as any human, from the tornado that storms past the farm to the downpours that eventually flood the fields, ruining the crop and washing Luke and his family into a new life.Grisham admirers know that this author's writing has evolved with nearly every book, from the simple mechanics that made The Firm click to the manifestations of grace that made The Testament such a fine novel of spiritual reckoning. The mechanics are still visible here--as a nosy, spying boy, Luke serves as a nearly omnipresent eye to spur the novel along its course--but so, too, are characters that no reader will forget, prose as clean and strong as any Grisham has yet laid down and a drop-dead evocation of a time and place that mark this novel as a classic slice of Americana. Agent, David Gernert. (One-day laydown, Feb. 6)FORECAST: Will Grisham's fans miss the lawyers? Not hardly. This is a Grisham novel all the way, despite its surface departures from the legal thrillers, and it will be received as such, justifying the 2.8-million first printing. (For more on Grisham, see Book News, p. 178)

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam; Reprint edition (February 3, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385337930
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385337939
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,618 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #40,448 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Long before his name became synonymous with the modern legal thriller, John Grisham was working 60-70 hours a week at a small Southaven, Mississippi law practice, squeezing in time before going to the office and during courtroom recesses to work on his hobby--writing his first novel. Born on February 8, 1955 in Jonesboro, Arkansas, to a construction worker and a homemaker, John Grisham as a child dreamed of being a professional baseball player. Realizing he didn't have the right stuff for a pro career, he shifted gears and majored in accounting at Mississippi State University. After graduating from law school at Ole Miss in 1981, he went on to practice law for nearly a decade in Southaven, specializing in criminal defense and personal injury litigation. One day at the DeSoto County courthouse, Grisham overheard the harrowing testimony of a twelve-year-old rape victim and was inspired to start a novel exploring what would have happened if the girl's father had murdered her assailants. Getting up at 5 a.m. every day to get in several hours of writing time before heading off to work, Grisham spent three years on A Time to Kill and finished it in 1987. Initially rejected by many publishers, it was eventually bought by Wynwood Press, who gave it a modest 5,000 copy printing and published it in June 1988.That might have put an end to Grishams hobby. However, he had already begun his next book, and it would quickly turn that hobby into a new full-time career. When he sold the film rights to The Firm to Paramount Pictures for $600,000, Grisham suddenly became a hot property among publishers, and book rights were bought by Doubleday. Spending 47 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list, The Firm became the bestselling novel of 1991.The successes of The Pelican Brief, which hit number one on the New York Times bestseller list, and The Client, which debuted at number one, confirmed Grisham's reputation as the master of the legal thriller. Grisham's success even renewed interest in A Time to Kill, which was republished in hardcover by Doubleday and then in paperback by Dell. This time around, it was a bestseller. Since first publishing A Time to Kill in 1988, Grisham has written one novel a year (his other books are The Firm, The Pelican Brief, The Client, The Chamber, The Rainmaker, The Runaway Jury, The Partner, The Street Lawyer, The Testament, The Brethren, A Painted House, Skipping Christmas, The Summons, The King of Torts, Bleachers, The Last Juror, The Broker, Playing for Pizza, and The Appeal) and all of them have become international bestsellers. There are currently over 225 million John Grisham books in print worldwide, which have been translated into 29 languages. Nine of his novels have been turned into films (The Firm, The Pelican Brief, The Client, A Time to Kill, The Rainmaker, The Chamber, A Painted House, The Runaway Jury, and Skipping Christmas), as was an original screenplay, The Gingerbread Man.

Photo credit Maki Galimberti

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
No, it is not the typical John Grisham suspense novel, but this book gave me a greater appreciation for Grisham and his writing abilities. A PAINTED HOUSE is a work of literary fiction that shows Grisham has a command of more than the tried and true lawyer/suspense formula and is darn good at it. I have read some of the unfavorable reviews and have to guess that these are people who rarely venture out of the "reading comfort zone" of popular fiction. Grisham in suspense mode is great, as is Baldacci, Patterson and others. But, there is a whole other world of great writing and Grisham has dared to venture into the serious world of true-blue literary fiction.
The story is narrated by seven year-old Luke Chandler, the son of an Arkansas family renting and farming in 1952 Arkansas. To say Luke "grows up" between the covers would be an understatement. Luke tells us a story of cotton pickers that will have you feeling every possible emotion, right along with young Luke. No, there are no slick lawyers or beautiful law students in A PAINTED HOUSE, but there ARE plenty of wonderful characters that come to life on the pages of this Grisham classic. To stay away from this John Grisham novel because it is not "typical" Grisham, would not be giving yourself enough credit for being able to appreciate a great author, and his work, because he is not writing something that is ready-for-the-screen. Trust the man who brought us THE FIRM, THE PELICAN BRIEF and others to keep you entertained in a different genre, to be sure, but entertained and mesmerized nonetheless. Do yourself a favor -- suspend your judgement about "literary fiction" -- and don't miss this one!!
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Format: Hardcover
As an ex-country boy, now living in the city, A Painted House really struck a chord with me. Farm life is tough. The people who live on farms have to be tougher or they won't survive. I felt John Grisham captured this observation beautifully.
We look at cotton farming in Arkansas in the 1950s during harvest. We experience the many different apprehensions involved with this season. That of hiring hill folk and the Mexicans, what the weather will do, whether the price will be high or low, will the Cardinals have a winning season.
The big strength of this book is the way the characters are brought to life so wonderfully. We experience their joys over simple pleasures such as sitting on the verandah listening to baseball, the loneliness of farm-life, despair of ever finishing harvest, wariness of the strangers employed, intermingled with the acceptance of the life they lead.
Sure it's not what you'd normally expect from a Grisham book and yes, we're not glued to our seats with heart-hammering courtroom drama, but so what? We experience the drama of racing to bring the crop in, the troubles that come from mixing people of different backgrounds together, and life on the land as it was in the 1950s.
I can't recommend this book highly enough for anyone who enjoys looking back on simpler times.
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Format: Hardcover
I have read every one of Grishams books. You could call me a real fan. I read this book in Oxford Magazine, and I found only one fault in it. It was to short. Yes, it is much different than anything else he has written, but so what, it is a great, yes great book. I can't wait until my 15 year old daughter gets time to read it. I see it as a classic for almost any school kid. Told from the view of this 7 year old boy on a poor farm, it had me from page one, and while it was not a great thriller it was a great story that could not have sounded more real. Do yourself a big time favor and don't pass up this wonderfully told story.
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Format: Hardcover
Luke is a wonderfully mischevious seven year old boy growing up in rural Arkansas during the time of the Korean War. He lives with his mother and father and his father's parents in a small unpainted house on a farm. They are cotton farmers. When cotton picking time arrives, Luke's quota for the day is 50 pounds. This story is told through Luke's experiences of watching the adults worry about the weather, the price of cotton, hiring Mexicans and Hill People to help pick cotton and through his part in a struggling proud family who all live, work, and worry together.
Any reader who has ever known a seven year old boy will love Luke as he narrates the hiring of the Mexicans and watches the hill people move in and camp in his front yard right over home plate. Luke's ambition is to grow up and become a baseball player for the Cardinals in St. Louis. As you read through the days of cotton picking and some difficult adult situations that Luke sees happen, you hope that all his dreams will come true and he will be able to get away from the hardships he has witnessed.
Grisham does not need a courtroom and a chase scene to write a memorable book with characters that will come to mind again and again. I have enjoyed his legal thrillers, but A Painted House offers up a beautiful sensitivity that proves he can write just as well when he reaches out to a new format.
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Format: Hardcover
I like many people first thought that this book was not going to be a good book. I mean, think about it, Grisham, not writing a Legal Thriller? That's his masterpiece work, why change? But you have to give this book a chance. I went out this morning and bought the book and just finished reading it. This book is definetely a book to add to your John Grisham collection. Even though sometimes it doesn't have same suspense of a legal thriller it has its' own way of manuevering your mind to the extent that you can't put it down. This is another great book by John Grisham!
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