56 of 66 people found the following review helpful
perfect for the modern classroom,
This review is from: A Lesson Before Dying (Oprah's Book Club) (Paperback)
I'm glad to hear many of the students who reviewed this book say that they found it more piercing than some of the "older" novels they read in class. Although as a teacher I wouldn't throw aside Hawthorne for Gaines, I think this book is a terrific addition to the American classics read in middle and high school. It makes a good pairing with To Kill a Mockingbird. Harper Lee's classic (and still as moving as ever) focuses on the trial of a black man, unfairly convicted, whereas Lesson accepts the inevitable death sentence and explores the journey towards salvation. Our narrator is the only "educated" person in the novel, but for all his education, he has no soul and no religious faith. After being asked to meet with Jefferson, the condemned man, to convince him that he is in fact a man, not a hog, the narrator discovers as much about himself as the prisoner. The minor cast of characters are well drawn -- the pain evident in their lives is present on ever page. We witness the indignities they suffer in the hands of the white justice system, including being forced to wait hours just to speak to the sheriff. I'm glad Gaines includes one "good" white man (Paul) as a gesture of good will that there are always smaller heroes among villains. The friendship between the narrator and Paul makes for an inspiring finale.
This book is very moving and well-written. Highly recommended.