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Bleachers Paperback – May 29, 2007

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Editorial Reviews Review

With Bleachers John Grisham departs again from the legal thriller to experiment with a character-driven tale of reunion, broken high school dreams, and missed chances. While the book falls short of the compelling storytelling that has made Grisham a bestselling author, it is nonetheless a diverting novella that succeeds as light fiction.

The story centers on the impending death of the Messina Spartans' football coach Eddie Rake. One of the most victorious coaches in high school football history, Rake is a man both loved and feared by his players and by a town that relishes his 13 state titles. The hero of the novel is Neely Crenshaw, a former Rake All-American whose NFL prospects ended abruptly after a cheap shot to the knees. Neely has returned home for the first time in years to join a nightly vigil for Rake at the Messina stadium. Having wandered through life with little focus since his college days, he struggles to reconcile his conflicted feelings towards his former coach, and he assays to rekindle love in the ex-girlfriend he abandoned long ago. For Messina and for Neely, the homecoming offers the prospect of building a life after Rake.

Physically a narrow book, Bleachers is a modest fiction in many respects. The emotional scope is akin to that of a short story, with a single-minded focus on explorations of nostalgia and regret. The dialogue, especially that of Neely's friend Paul Curry, is sometimes wooden as characters recall Messina history in paragraphs that were perhaps better left to the narrator. But Grisham has otherwise written a well-made, entertaining--if a bit sentimental--story. --Patrick O'Kelley --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Grisham demonstrated he could produce bestsellers without legal aid with The Painted House and Skipping Christmas, and he'll undoubtedly do so again with this slight but likable novel of high school football, a legendary coach and the perils of too early fame. Fifteen years after graduation, Neely Crenshaw, one-time star quarterback of the Messina Spartans, returns home on hearing news of the impending death of tough-as-nails coach Eddie Rake. Neely knows the score: "When you're famous at eighteen, you spend the rest of your life fading away." It's a lesson he's learned the hard way after destroying his knee playing college ball and drifting through life in an ever-downward spiral. He and his former teammates sit in the bleachers at the high school stadium waiting for Rake to die, drinking beer and reminiscing. There is a mystery involving the legendary '87 championship, and Neely has unfinished business with an old high school sweetheart, but neither story line comes to much. Readers will guess the solution to the mystery, as does the town police chief when it's divulged to him (" `We sorta figured it out,' said Mal") and Neely's former girlfriend doesn't want to have anything to do with his protestations of love ("You'll get over it. Takes about ten years"). The stirring funeral scene may elicit a few tears, but Neely's eulogy falls curiously flat. After living through four hard days in Messina, the lessons Neely learns are unremarkable ("Those days are gone now"). Many readers will come away having enjoyed the time spent, but wishing there had been a more sympathetic lead character, more originality, more pages, more story and more depth.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Delta; Reprint edition (May 29, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385340877
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385340878
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (663 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #352,808 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

I would recommend this book to anyone, even if they aren't football fans.
A wonderful story about a man who goes back to his home town to honor his high school football coach.
Amazon Customer
I have read all of his books but this one I just kept wondering when it was going to get better.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

91 of 108 people found the following review helpful By chris meesey Food Czar on September 14, 2003
Format: Hardcover
You've read Bleachers, John Grisham's newest bestseller, many times in a thousand other books, many of them better than this somewhat undersized novel. The general atmosphere of high school football which consumes an entire town has been told better in Friday Night Lights. The harsh treatment of young football hopefuls by dictator-coaches was brought into cruel focus in the non-fiction Junction Boys, about Bear Bryant and a legendary sweatbox training camp for his players during his first summer at Texas A&M. And, of course, keeping vigil for an impending death has been literally done to death many times, notably in Edward Albee's Pulitzer-Prize winning play All Over. So, why read Bleachers? Because, once again, the fresh, newspaper-like quality of John Grisham's minimalist prose draws us into the story and makes us love and, in our own ways, relate to all the characters, saint and sinner alike. Here, we have Neely Crenshaw, the gifted ex-quarterback who can't forgive Coach Eddie Rake for one moment of lockerroom abuse; Cameron, the ex-girlfriend whom he jilted in high school and who cannot fully forgive him; Mal, the ex-player turned lawman who has his own chilling tale to tell; and finally, the ex-teammates who meet spontanously in the bleachers of the old stadium awaiting news of the coach's impending death. They meet shyly, hesitantly at first, then start to drink and tell stories while listening to a tape broadcast of their most famous game. (Their shared stories as they relive this game are the undisputed high point of the book.) Yes, we even have the memorial service in which our ex-quarterback and (believe it or not) our dearly departed coach get the chance to have a final say. We know the outcome of this story as surely as Friday night football in the South. Why retell it?Read more ›
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By hartf on October 1, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I'm not a huge Grisham fan and find myself only really reading his departures, Skipping Christmas, and now Bleachers. I have to say that I truly did like both novels. Bleachers is not merely a sports story and I would disagree that you need to be a football fan to enjoy this book. Bleachers is much more. It's a story of shattered dreams, potential, regret, and coming to terms with one's past. The story's central character Neely Crenshaw deals with a love that hurts 10 years later, a coach dying whom he is unsure if he loves or hates. Bleachers makes you think back to the one person that affected your life more thn anyone. Bleachers is not a great character study and is certainly not going to blow your mind, but Bleachers is a great escape and will make you think back to the days when you were 18.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By nobizinfla on September 15, 2003
Format: Hardcover
There are no lawyers, judges, juries or DA's in "Bleachers" by John Grisham.
It is a simple, unpretentious story eloquently told.
The high school football team put a small Southern town on the map after a new coach was hired. Eddie Rake, the coach for 34 years won numerous state championships and had an eighty-four game winning streak.
More important than the stats was the influence, inspiration and affect he had on his players. They were considered the elite, not only of the school, but the town as well.
The coach is dying and players return for the vigil and funeral of the man they both loved and hated, revered and feared, adored and abhorred.
Generations of players mingle, stories are swapped and long held secrets are revealed.
A powerful book that will make you laugh, cry and cheer---and in the end feel uplifted and reaffirmed.
You cannot ask for more than that.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Donald Duenne on October 10, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Let's first off establish that this book is not one of John Grisham's best books. It doesn't hold a candle to "A Time to Kill" or "The Partner." This book, however, is best read by those who love and appreciate sports or who have had an influential coach in their life. Other wise, the passages describing games and plays will drone on for a little too long.
After ten years Grisham still his own way of telling a story that is as comfortable as slipping on a favorite pair of pajamas. Bleachers is a quick romp, but not much to savor.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 15, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I have read every novel written by this Author. I could easily believe that someone else wrote this boring book and he put his name on it for the money. What the heck was he thinking when he wrote this disappointing drivel without a plot. If you're a die-hard Grisham fan, your expectations will die-easily while reading this book. He should stick with the formula he knows, the law.
I made the mistake of paying full price for this book.
Check out the reviews of these books; The Da Vinci Code, Mind Catcher, Alien Rapture, and Timeline. I greatly enjoyed these books, unlike Bleachers (Bleakers).
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Peter Lorenzi on September 17, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This slim (168 pages) novel follows a week in the vigil and funeral for an historic high school football coach in a small town devoted religiously to the sport. Actually, fanatics, crazed, zealots, insane boosters and other, even stronger words come to mind to describe the town's commitment, The pending death of the coach gives reason for a goodly number of his 700-plus former athletes to come into town. Neely - the knee-damaged super quarterback of the stunning 1987 state championship -- is back, for the first time in a long time. He, not the dying coach, is the center of the story.
Supporting Neely is a good array of colorful characters, high school jock stereotypes - the gangly, misfooted punter who later comes out of the closet and now owns a book store, the star receiver now managing the local bank, the convict, the ex-convict, and the current sheriff, the scrawny back who suffers a terrible fate, and more. And there is the memory of the perfect, dumb, devilish, blonde cheerleader, who is out of town but on the mind of more players than just Neely. She took Neely away from another stereotype: the cute girl who grows up to be perfect. Neely can't forget her and she can't forgive him for leaving her for the legs and lungs of the vixen.
There is not much time to develop the characters, not in these few pages. Two threads run through the book: the death that led to the coach's firing and the mystery behind that 1987 state championship when, trailing 31-0 at the half, Neely and Silo (Yes, he's built like a silo; there's also one athlete named Hindu.) lead the team back for a miraculous win. Best of all, one alum drags out a tape of the second half, allowing a radio broadcast to magnify the mystery: Why did the coaches not return to the field for the second half.
Read more ›
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