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A Painted House [Paperback]

John Grisham
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (979 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Feb. 3 2004
Until that September of 1952, Luke Chandler had never kept a secret or told a single lie. But in the long, hot summer of his seventh year, two groups of migrant workers — and two very dangerous men — came through the Arkansas Delta to work the Chandler cotton farm. And suddenly mysteries are flooding Luke’s world.

A brutal murder leaves the town seething in gossip and suspicion. A beautiful young woman ignites forbidden passions. A fatherless baby is born ... and someone has begun furtively painting the bare clapboards of the Chandler farmhouse, slowly, painstakingly, bathing the run-down structure in gleaming white. And as young Luke watches the world around him, he unravels secrets that could shatter lives — and change his family and his town forever....

From the Paperback edition.

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From Amazon

Ever since he published The Firm in 1991, John Grisham has remained the undisputed champ of the legal thriller. With A Painted House, however, he strikes out in a new direction. As the author is quick to note, this novel includes "not a single lawyer, dead or alive," and readers will search in vain for the kind of lowlife machinations that have been his stock-in-trade. Instead, Grisham has delivered a quieter, more contemplative story, set in rural Arkansas in 1952. It's harvest time on the Chandler farm, and the family has hired a crew of migrant Mexicans and "hill people" to pick 80 acres of cotton. A certain camaraderie pervades this bucolic dream team. But it's backbreaking work, particularly for the 7-year-old narrator, Luke: "I would pick cotton, tearing the fluffy bolls from the stalks at a steady pace, stuffing them into the heavy sack, afraid to look down the row and be reminded of how endless it was, afraid to slow down because someone would notice."

What's more, tensions begin to simmer between the Mexicans and the hill people, one of whom has a penchant for bare-knuckles brawling. This leads to a brutal murder, which young Luke has the bad luck to witness. At this point--with secrets, lies, and at least one knife fight in the offing--the plot begins to take on that familiar, Grisham-style momentum. Still, such matters ultimately take a back seat in A Painted House to the author's evocation of time and place. This is, after all, the scene of his boyhood, and Grisham waxes nostalgic without ever succumbing to deep-fried sentimentality. Meanwhile, his account of Luke's Baptist upbringing occasions some sly (and telling) humor:

I'd been taught in Sunday school from the day I could walk that lying would send you straight to hell. No detours. No second chances. Straight into the fiery pit, where Satan was waiting with the likes of Hitler and Judas Iscariot and General Grant. Thou shalt not bear false witness, which, of course, didn't sound exactly like a strict prohibition against lying, but that was the way the Baptists interpreted it.
Whether Grisham will continue along these lines, or revert to the judicial shark tank for his next book, is anybody's guess. But A Painted House suggests that he's perfectly capable of telling an involving story with nary a subpoena in sight. --James Marcus --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Grisham fans will not despair as they discover that this finely wrought tale includes no lawyers. Instead, the author presents an evocation of the life of a young boy growing up on a Southern farm in hard times during the fall 1952 cotton-picking season. Lansbury, an actor of stage and screens, both big and small, brings a sweet innocence to the voice of narrator, Luke Chandler. Luke, a curious, even nosy seven-year-old, witnesses a series of events that range from the dramatic to the profoundly disturbing including a birth, a flood and a couple of killings. Lansbury gives each character his or her own distinctive voice: low and gruff for Luke's grandfather, Pappy; tough and huffy for troublesome Hank, one of the "hill people" the Chandlers hire to help pick the cotton; soft and gentle for Luke's mother. The range of voices helps listeners as he enacts dialogue; but when switching between dialogue and his narration as Luke, Lansbury's performance is far less smooth. Still, Lansbury's is an effective reading of a provocative novel that will please and surprise Grisham's many fans. Simultaneous release with the Doubleday hardcover (Forecasts, Jan. 22).

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Paint your own house first May 26 2005
Format:Mass Market Paperback
A PAINTED HOUSE was good if you enjoy reading about farm life, and people living with their in-laws and working hard. I did have a problem with the main character. We have a 7 year old boy who should have been about 12 or 13. I have never met a 7 year old with such maturity. He is even interested in teenage girls. The boy worried about everything under the sun and could keep secrets better than a priest. If you can get past the fact, that the boy is too young, and you enjoy a good story about farm life in the south, this one is for you. But I do have to say that I did read one other book with a seven-year-old in it, and that was a little more believable since the child had something like Asperberger's or DID, or some such syndrome where children are more intelligent than they should be at that age (BARK OF THE DOGWOOD-very funny and moving). So don't get too hung up on the kid's age. Painted House is a very well-told tale by one of America's most-loved authors.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Satisfying Rural Tale July 13 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I'm not a fan of Grisham's regular pop thriller schmaltz, so I was reluctant to pick up this one, even though assured that it's a new direction for him. Well, I'm convinced. Grisham can write. He can put together dialogue and local color that's not in a Chicago courthouse, and he can pace a slow story with an evolving plot. "A Painted House" is sort of a Steinbeck tale, following a rural Arkansas farm family for a few months in 1952 as they pick their cotton crop, endure the elements, and move among their neighbors and hired hands. It's a nice story, dark and sometimes forbidding, but always inviting. Seven year-old Luke's yearning for matinee cowboy movies and a red Cardinals baseball jacket ring true and bring a smile. Grisham's attention to detail, the small-town gossip, the back-lot garden, the annual ballgame, all create a deep and satisfying rural tale. It's not real Steinbeck, but it's not bad, and it's a huge step up for Grisham.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A house to remember June 28 2004
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
What probably throws most people off about this book is the fact that it's such a departure from Grisham's other works. For me this was not a problem as this was my first "Grisham." Now, I've gone back and read his other books, and I can see why people are upset with his sudden and drastic foray into this type of writing. I don't know where the comparisons to "To Kill A Mockingbird" come in--good or bad--because I can see no similarities whatsoever. This book stands on it's own for what it is--a pleasant read, a diversion into a new style for the author, and a well-written little piece of fiction. My only hesitation with the book was that some of the loose ends were not tied up. Unless Grisham is planning a sequal, I felt he should have let us in on what happens to a few of the characters. All-in-all, this was pleasant time spent with an easy book. If you're a fan of books set in the South, such as Fried Green Tomatoes, Bark of the Dogwood, or The Color Purple, then you'll probably like this book as well.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Hurray! "A Painted House" is a reader's book. June 23 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
If you expect this Grisham novel to materialize in the near future at the cineplex, you may have a long wait. To be read with deliberation, savored for color and consumed morsel by morsel, "A Painted House," paints, indeed, stroke by careul stroke, a living portrait of the early fifties as seen through the eyes of a seven-year old child.
Although the story is set in rural Arkansas, it speaks wonderfully of daily family life in 1952 America. The setting is a farm, the family work is cotton, the time of year is late summer/early autumn, baseball is on the radio, soldiers are dying in Korea and seven-year old Luke is learning about life the way we all learned about life back then--by active experience.
Throughout the span of the novel, Luke's family home is painted for the first time, board by board, as spare hours and funds allow. As the old home grows up, metaphorically, so, in reality, does Luke who learns the lessons we all learned early on - that where there is love, there is often hate, where there is tenderness, there is also violence, where there is hope there is also fear, where there is wanting, there is also giving, where there is life there is, certainly, death.
Grisham's writing is exceptional as he recalls the interior life of a seven year old. If you remember being seven, you'll remember this book and be enriched by the read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Painted House June 7 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
The setting for this novel is a quiet Arkansas cotton farm in 1952. Life is simple for the poor rural folks who live there...
The story begins just as harvest time is ready to start. The Chandler family needs help picking cotton as they do every year. Young seven year old Luke and Grandpa set out to hire farm hands. They do not have an easy task. They first engage the Spruill's, a coarse mountain family, who move from farm-to-farm each season looking for work. They realize that the Spruill's are an odd bunch, but they do not have any other choice. The cotton must be picked. They also hire Mexican migrant workers who come all the way from Mexico to Arkansas in cattle-like trailers. Mexicans are considered outsiders and are treated as second class although they work hard.
After everyone is hired, the cotton is ready to be picked and the real story begins... Seven year old Luke Chandler tells the story from his perspective. In just a few months he witnesses a murder, falls in love, watches an illegitimate child being born, observes a fight, sneaks around the adult world and learns to keep many secrets. This harvest season, he learns to grow up.
A real page-turner!
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars My favourite author strikes again!
My favourite author strikes again! Mr. Grisham has created another tantalizing tale for us to enjoy. Intriguing to the mind!
Published 10 months ago by WhiteWitch
1.0 out of 5 stars Boring
Boring! I can easily read a book in a day and a half. It took me weeks to finish this book.
Published 19 months ago by Sharon Ryan
4.0 out of 5 stars positive
The book arrived in great shape....however the only negative thing is that it took so long.
It took just about a month to get here. Read more
Published on Dec 8 2009 by H. Cutten
4.0 out of 5 stars Really liked it
This book is life changing. I read it a year ago, and I still can't stop thinking about the characters or the wonderful storyline itself. Read more
Published on Feb. 6 2005 by Starkweather,
5.0 out of 5 stars You're home now
I agree with another reviewer that this book had a very "Steinbeck" sort of flavor to it. At the time I read it, I couldn't put my finger on that, but looking back it... Read more
Published on July 27 2004
2.0 out of 5 stars What happened to the ending?
1ST let me say I love John Grisham but this was not one of his best works. It was if the story just ended. Read more
Published on July 18 2004 by Tanya McDonald
2.0 out of 5 stars Please stab my spleen now
Having corn flakes with powdered milk (no water) isn't as dry as this book. I found myself (much like I did with The Catcher in the Rye)reading only because I kept waiting for... Read more
Published on July 12 2004 by Daniel E. Donche Jr.
3.0 out of 5 stars Ending seemed too abrupt and incomplete.
I was into the book and enjoying the way the story was being told. Unfortunately, the loose ends never got "tied up. Read more
Published on July 9 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars Charming coming of age tale
This is a charming, non-offensive tale of coming of age in Arkansas during the 1950s. Luke is the main character in this Grisham novel that is like no other he has written. Read more
Published on July 8 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars Very good
I grew up in the South (Virginia) and think this is a very entertaining, interesting novel that is unlike anything Grisham has written before. Read more
Published on July 7 2004 by John
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