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A Lesson Before Dying (Oprah's Book Club) Paperback – Enhanced, September 1, 1994

4.5 out of 5 stars 1,755 ratings

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Oprah Book Club® Selection, September 1997: In a small Cajun community in 1940s Louisiana, a young black man is about to go to the electric chair for murder. A white shopkeeper had died during a robbery gone bad; though the young man on trial had not been armed and had not pulled the trigger, in that time and place, there could be no doubt of the verdict or the penalty.

"I was not there, yet I was there. No, I did not go to the trial, I did not hear the verdict, because I knew all the time what it would be..." So begins Grant Wiggins, the narrator of Ernest J. Gaines's powerful exploration of race, injustice, and resistance, A Lesson Before Dying. If young Jefferson, the accused, is confined by the law to an iron-barred cell, Grant Wiggins is no less a prisoner of social convention. University educated, Grant has returned to the tiny plantation town of his youth, where the only job available to him is teaching in the small plantation church school. More than 75 years after the close of the Civil War, antebellum attitudes still prevail: African Americans go to the kitchen door when visiting whites and the two races are rigidly separated by custom and by law. Grant, trapped in a career he doesn't enjoy, eaten up by resentment at his station in life, and angered by the injustice he sees all around him, dreams of taking his girlfriend Vivian and leaving Louisiana forever. But when Jefferson is convicted and sentenced to die, his grandmother, Miss Emma, begs Grant for one last favor: to teach her grandson to die like a man.

As Grant struggles to impart a sense of pride to Jefferson before he must face his death, he learns an important lesson as well: heroism is not always expressed through action--sometimes the simple act of resisting the inevitable is enough. Populated by strong, unforgettable characters, Ernest J. Gaines's A Lesson Before Dying offers a lesson for a lifetime.

Review

"This majestic, moving novel is an instant classic, a book that will be read, discussed and taught beyond the rest of our lives." —Chicago Tribune

"A Lesson Before Dying reconfirms Ernest J. Gaines's position as an important American writer." — Boston Globe

"Enormously moving. . . . Gaines unerringly evokes the place and time about which he writes." —Los Angeles Times

“A quietly moving novel [that] takes us back to a place we've been before to impart a lesson for living.” —San Francisco Chronicle


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Product details

  • ASIN : 0375702709
  • Publisher : Vintage; 1st edition (September 1, 1994)
  • Language : English
  • Paperback : 256 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 9780375702709
  • ISBN-13 : 978-0375702709
  • Lexile measure : 750L
  • Item Weight : 7 ounces
  • Dimensions : 5.19 x 0.57 x 8 inches
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,755 ratings

Customer reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5
1,755 global ratings
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Reviewed in the United States on June 24, 2018
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Reviewed in the United States on November 6, 2015
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Reviewed in the United States on March 29, 2019
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Reviewed in the United States on August 4, 2015
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Reviewed in the United States on May 7, 2019
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Reviewed in the United States on October 19, 2018
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great book, great author, do not read while doing the laundry.
By H.C. Livingood on October 19, 2018
My first time reading Ernest J. Gaines. What an amazing writer! I would recommend this book to anyone interested in African-American culture, southern writing, human rights or a general interest in knowing something new. With that said, I do not recommend washing the book with the laundry. As you can see, this copy won’t be a reread. 💩
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Top reviews from other countries

Crystal Tips
2.0 out of 5 stars Book was described as good. I would not say so as the pages ...
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on July 19, 2018
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Laurie
5.0 out of 5 stars please i have said what i wish to
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on November 14, 2019
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Unknown
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on January 7, 2018
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Lava1964
4.0 out of 5 stars Not bad--but predictable in showcasing racism
Reviewed in Canada on March 15, 2014
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Reem
5.0 out of 5 stars Love the new book smell
Reviewed in Canada on November 11, 2019
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