A Painted House by John Grisham

A Painted House

Reviewed by Allen Hott

Lots of applause and kudos to John Grisham for writing a very interesting, heart-warming story about something other than lawyers and courtrooms. For those of us who are Grisham fans however we do know he has done this more than once. Bleachers, Calico Joe, and Playing for Pizza are more examples of his straying from the legal entities. And he does a great job regardless of the arena that he chooses.

This story is witnessed and told by a seven year old country boy living in rural Arkansas.
Luke Chandler lives in a small unpainted wooden farm house with his mother, father, and his father’s parents. All of the happenings occur during the end of the growing season in 1952 as Luke learns more and more about life besides farming. Luke’s grandfather had farmed basically all of his life except for service in World War I which left him with an injury that took away a promising baseball career.

The family raises almost all of their food requirements in a large garden tended primarily by the two women. They attempt to grow and harvest enough cotton to pay for all of their other bills and needs.

This means that when September comes and the cotton is ready for picking they have to hire in temporary help for the field work. Like most of the local farmers the Chandlers look to hire hill people who come down from further north in Arkansas and neighboring states. Although the southerners do not always appreciate some of the habits of these temporary workers they have little choice. But one other choice is Mexicans who also come up to fill the openings as needed. This particular year the Chandlers hire some of each and strange as it may seem both of these temporary groups bring their own habits and a completely new set of problems.

Luke is not happy with the idea that the hill people have “nested” in a portion of the front yard where he acts out his dreams playing baseball. Having the genes of both his father and grandfather Luke fully intends to leave the farm one day and play baseball for the St Louis Cardinals. And he doesn’t like having to give up some of his practice space even for a limited amount of time.

But that is only one problem as within the group of hill people is one particular individual who is a big time bully. Hank, the big boy of the family, gives Luke and eventually others in the local area problems with his attitude and actions.

However from the opposite side, the Mexicans, there is also a similar, somewhat smaller in stature but about the same size in attitude, young man named Cowboy.

Luke without even trying becomes very involved with both of these two and the happenings that occur with them. Things happen that Luke witnesses and they are so foreign to Luke and his way of life that he is afraid to tell anyone even his grandfather who is his closest friend.

As the picking season and the book come to an end the reader cannot help but feel very close to Luke and his problems. The whole idea of just what the title means also grows and grows on the reader throughout the book.

A truly great read by a master!

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