I doubt that Harper Lee or Anne Rivers Siddons could have told the story of A PAINTED HOUSE any sweeter than did John Grisham. Add to that the reading of the incredibly talented David Lansbury and you have sheer literary joy. This is not typical Grisham, but a Grisham that stretches the imagination of readers. Thoughtful, exuberant, seven-year old Luke Chandler is the narrator, spilling his youthful impressions of growing up in 1952 Arkansas as a member of a family of proud dirt farmers. Cotton and the Baptist church rule this hard working, nuclear family.
To help bring in the crop, Luke's father hires "hill people" and Mexicans, who mix like oil and water in the exhaustingly hot, humid early fall in rural Arkansas. With 80 acres to pick, every hand is needed, and the race is on to bring in the crop for the best price. The opening lines of A PAINTED HOUSE set the tone: "The hill people and the Mexicans arrived on the same day. It was a Wednesday, early in September 1952. The Cardinals were five games behind the Dodgers with three weeks to go, and the season looked hopeless. The cotton, however, was waist-high to my father, over my head, and he and my grandfather could be heard before supper whispering words that were seldom heard. It could be a 'good crop.'"
It is in this year that Luke learns the lessons of humanity. He learns to love and hate, to consider questions of right and wrong, and to hold true to his beloved St. Louis Cardinals. The lives of sharecroppers and migrant farm workers come alive, as the characters are so real you can practically reach out and touch them.
Grisham has a jewel. It is my hope that he continues to produce thoughtful fiction along this line for decades to come. As always, enjoy!
Reviewed by Marge Fletcher (AudioMarge) on December 26, 2001
A Painted House (Audio)