Monday, March 26, 2012

A PAINTED HOUSE by John Grisham

John Grisham's  A Painted House may not be the masterpiece that Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath was, but it bears some resemblances in terms of content. Grisham's book is narrated by 7-year-old Luke Chandler, growing up on a farm in Arkansas, where Mother Nature can be generous or dastardly.  Luke's world centers around 80 rented acres that his parents and grandparents plant in cotton every year, and despite their mounting debt and the hard work, his life is relatively happy, thanks to a loving family and a bountiful garden.  The book centers on one particular picking season in the fall of 1952, in which his family hires two groups of pickers—a family of "hill people," the Spruills from the Ozarks, and a group of Mexicans.  Each group has its troublemaker, and most of the plot excitement revolves around them—Cowboy, the cocky, switchblade-carrying Mexican, and Hank, the insolent and bullying Spruill son.  Luke is enamored of the teenage Tally Spruill, especially her mischievous nature, despite her obvious attraction to Cowboy.  Last but not least, there's the sharecropping Latcher family, poor beyond description, with an unmarried pregnant daughter who won't name the father of her child.  The Latchers make the Chandlers look positively prosperous, but more importantly, they provide the Chandlers the opportunity to be good neighbors, despite the hardship their good will costs them.

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