A TIME TO KILL, John Grisham

Engaging, entertaining and much more. This book is a pleasure to read on all counts. The narrative is polished prose at its finest, eliciting emotions and feelings from the reader with the turn of every page.

The life of a ten-year-old girl is shattered by two drunken and remorseless young men. The mostly white town of Clanton in Ford County, Mississippi, reacts with shock and horror at the inhuman crime. Until her black father acquires an assault rifle and takes justice into his own outraged hands.

For ten days, as burning crosses and the crack of sniper fire spread through the streets of Clanton, the nation sits spellbound as young defence attorney Jake Brigance struggles to save his client’s life–and then his own.

Richard’s comments
A Time to Kill is an outstanding recounting of a cliched story, a black child brutally and violently assaulted by two white southern rednecks, good old boys drunk on beer and high on drugs. Her father takes revenge killing the two white offenders but the story’s cliche questions whether a predominantly white jury in a southern predominantly black town can deliver a just verdict at the father’s trial.

An enjoyable movie too
As often is the case, the book surpasses the movie in every day. The reader is allowed into the minds of the protagonists; they get explanations, reasoning and rationalizations which a movie with restricted running time cannot deliver. The book has more colour, more depth, more character development. The characters are more fully described making the reader appreciate them more and helps the reader understand why they do or don’t do expected endeavours.

Grisham is more than just the master of storytelling. He is the masters’ master whose writing style goes beyond the expected engaging and the anticipated polished prose. He grabs the read and holds the reader’s attention as he develops his story, describes his scenes or details events. He draws every reader into the mind of the character hearing the character’s motivation, thoughts and conscience in doing what he or she did. 

Grisham’s book is not a suspense thriller but more of an emotional ride. He carries the reader on a path of anger and desire for revenge. He engages the reader’s sympathy, pity and empathy for the victim and her family. He poses a universal question which the reader must consider for themselves, “Is there such a thing as justifiable homicide?” Maybe, more importantly, he sets the stage for American readers with the very deep question, “can that nation ever live up to the values and principles as proclaimed in its constitution?” Grisham’s book is as timely today as it was when he wrote it more than twenty-five years ago.

Has America eliminated or reduced the bigotry and racism of her historical past or is that past merely less openly practiced, less visible? If you were a person of colour would you choose to live in the United States of America of today?

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