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Ford County: Stories Mass Market Paperback – Unabridged, August 17, 2010
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Amazon Exclusive: Pat Conroy Reviews Ford County
Pat Conroy is most recently the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller South of Broad, as well as eight previous books: The Boo, The Water Is Wide, The Great Santini, The Lords of Discipline, The Prince of Tides, Beach Music, My Losing Season, and The Pat Conroy Cookbook: Recipes of My Life. He lives on Fripp Island, South Carolina. Read his exclusive Amazon guest review of Ford County:
In the mail last week, I received a copy of John Grisham’s latest fiction. It surprised me that the book was comprised of seven short stories. From the time I first began publishing at Doubleday, they have always made sure that I received a copy of a Grisham book long before it went on sale in the bookstores. He has written 22 books, and I’ve read them all as soon as they were available in crisp review copies.
I have loved the Grisham books for the same reason that I love the works of John Irving, Richard Russo, or Anne Rivers Siddons: I get hooked by an early page, and pure habit forces me to read until I am issued my walking papers and can return to my normal life. These writers are all wish-bringers who cast spells with the bright enchantment of their stories, and the power of story has retained its glamour and necessity for me. I’ve always liked it when Grisham took a sabbatical from his impressive fiction to romp in the field of sports or non-fiction.
John surprised me by entering the ring of danger that the short story represents for all writers. In the world of writing, the poets come first as they finger the language like worry beads and wonder where their next meal is coming from. The art of the short story writer is one of economy, concision, and the genius of trying to craft a whole world inside a mason jar. The modern world punishes the short story writer with inattention. The literary reviews keep the short story alive and finger-popping in America today, while the New Yorker tries to strangle the form with its bare hands. But a great short story is a source of joy, and the reading of Chekhov, de Maupassant, Flannery O’Connor and others offer pleasures unmatched by any other form. Since I’m incapable of writing the short story form, I wanted to see how Grisham fared, knowing the critics would sharpen their swords against him no matter how accomplished his stories might be.
Ford County is the best writing that John Grisham has ever done. One of the many things I’ve admired about his books is his intimate chronicle of Mississippi life in the generations following William Faulkner and Eudora Welty. Grisham writes equally well about the plantation south, the black south, and white-cracker south. Over the years he has used the legal system as an instrument to illuminate the world of mansions and sharecroppers and everything in between as he not only defined Mississippi but also staked it out as his home fictional territory. His short stories were a surprise to me. All of them are very good; three of them, I believe, are great. Grisham has always had a rare gift for breaking hearts when he invokes unforgettable images of the broken, hopeless South. Some of the stories are hilarious, and Grisham’s gift of humor has never found a showcase like this. One of these stories should find its way into the anthologies of the best short stories of 2009. It might not happen, but I for one think the stories in Ford County are that damned good.--Pat Conroy
(Photo © David G. Spielman)
--This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
From Publishers Weekly
Returning to the setting of his first novel, A Time to Kill, longtime bestseller Grisham presents seven short stories about the residents of Ford County, Miss. Each story explores different themes-mourning, revenge, justice, acceptance, evolution-but all flirt with the legal profession, the staple of (former attorney) Grisham's oeuvre. Fans will be excited to settle back into Grisham's world, and these easily digestible stories don't disappoint, despite their brevity. Full of strong characters, simple but resonant plotlines, and charming Southern accents, this collection is solid throughout; though his literary aspirations may seem quaint, Grisham succeeds admirably in his crowd-pleasing craft while avoiding pat endings or oversimplifying (perhaps best exemplified in "Michael's Room," which finds a lawyer facing the consequences of successfully defending a doctor against a malpractice suit). As always, Grisham balances his lawyerly preoccupations with a deep respect for his undereducated and overlooked characters.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
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Blood Drive - a very point-blank demonstration of the saying "boys will be boys".
Fetching Raymond - it's true that your character will most likely take after your parents or the people who've raised you, but it's still up to oneself to set one's course in life.
Fish Files - this one, along with Casino, are the stories that had the villains got away with it. Nothing much in terms of life lessons there, so to the young people who read this, just remember karma.
Casino - see Fish Files
Michael's Room - taking revenge is better via an attack on the conscience. As well, maybe a little threat on the side, one that is not empty, would surely help.
Quiet Haven - a bit in the category of Fish Files and Casino, only this story has the scheming con being able to help in some way while he carries out his mission.
Funny Boy - shows how people, even those who preach to love one another, buckle down and pass on judgment like they were not sinners at all.
I've always been hooked on Grisham, and I think I will remain to be.
The first story, "Blood Drive", is rather humorous. It's about three local yokels who hop in a pickup truck and head for the big city, ostensibly to help save the life of a buddy. What ensues is a tale that includes beer, strip clubs, jail, and worse.
Several of the stories involve unsavory characters. "Fetching Raymond" is about Mrs. McBride and her three sons who all have long rap sheets. (Make that past tense for the son named Raymond) . "Fish Files" is about a small time bankruptcy and divorce attorney who answers the phone when his secretary is away from her desk. Quote: "He had never thought about the possibility that one call could so quickly and dramatically lead to his own divorce and bankruptcy." Sometimes crime pays. Sometimes it doesn't.
"Michael's Room" is sure to elicit outrage while at the same time bring the reader to tears. It's about an attorney who makes a living defending incompetent doctors and their insurance companies against lawsuits. One evening, a quick trip to the grocery store to pick up a frozen pizza for dinner, leads to an encounter the attorney will never forget. He is forced to confront the reality of what he does for a living and how a victory for his client can mean devastation for the human beings on the losing side. One would have to have a stone heart to not be affected by this story.
My favorite story, "Funny Boy" is the last story in the book. It's about a gay man with AIDS named Adrian Keane who comes home to Ford County to die. His family, prominent citizens of the county, fulfill their obligation to take care of Adrian by moving him in with Miss Emporia, one of their tenants living in a rental property they own on the bad side of town. Quote: The thought of a Keane living across the railroad tracks in the black section was hard to accept, but then it seemed logical that anyone with AIDS should not be allowed on the white side of town." This story deals with racism, homophobia, ignorance and fear, and mortality. The relationship between Adrian and Miss Emporia is very poignant, and the image of them sitting on the front porch will linger long after the story ends.
I think the last two stories ("Michael's Room" and "Funny Guy") are worthy of 5 stars, but I give "Ford County" as a whole a strong 4 stars.