In his twenty-eighth book, Sycamore Row, one of the great American storytellers John Grisham unravels a new, but very familiar, tale in the sleepy little town of Clanton, Mississippi. You may remember that Clanton was also the setting for Grisham’s very first book, A Time to Kill. (On a side note, if If anyone ever sees A Time to Kill in a red dust jacket, let me know.)
Long-time Clanton resident Seth Hubbard, seemingly out of spite alone, amasses a fortune before learning that he has lung cancer. He also amasses two wills; one prepared by a fancy firm in Tupelo, the other a handwritten will prepared by Seth Hubbard himself in Ford County, Mississippi. Needless to say, there are some discrepancies between the two.
Enter everyone’s favorite attorney, Mr. Jake Brigance (Esquire AT Law), to guide Mr. Hubbard’s last wishes through the weedy legal system of Mississippi. Jake is followed closely by his wife and daughter, Sheriff Ozzie Wells, his disgraced and disbarred landlord Lucien Wilbanks, fellow attorney Harry Rex Vonner, and Claude from the diner.
Long story short, if you enjoyed A Time to Kill, The Client, Skipping Christmas and Playing for Pizza, you will enjoy Sycamore Row. It is classic John Grisham. It is storytelling at its best.
I wondered as I read, though, if some of the story wasn’t being lost for me because I could picture the characters in the story. I could see Matthew McConaughey standing with Charles S. Dutton as Jake and Sheriff Wells discussed matters in the street. I could see Donald Sutherland and Oliver Platt as Lucien and Harry Rex provided their legal theories and advice to Jake Brigance. I pictured Tommy Lee Jones as Rufus Buckley entered the courtroom – then I saw the look of disgust and frustration on Kevin Spacey’s face as he stood there with his briefcase and screamed, “THAT WAS ME!!” I could even picture Ashley Judd as Carla, scrubbing the floor of the Brigance home with a toothbrush, in a dress, sweating because there is no air conditioning in the house because, you know, that’s the way we clean floors here in the south.
I don’t want to go too far down this sidetrack, but I do want to say this. If you are casting a film set in the south and the first two names that pop in your head for the female lead are not Ashley Judd and Reese Witherspoon, you’ve failed. Nothing irritates me more than a fake southern accent. Aww shucks gosh we just down here a-running around nekked cause we ai’nt got no air condition.
Back to Sycamore Row. I have, in the past, wondered as I read a Grisham book who would play the book’s characters in the movie. I didn’t have that experience with Sycamore Row. I don’t know if that was good or bad, it was just different.
Coming in at 447 pages, this was a monster of a book by Grisham standards. It seems that his previous offerings were in the 335-370 page range, with a large font, short chapters, and some fairly spacious pages margins. Sycamore Row appears to have a 10 point font with 1/2″ page margins. For someone who doesn’t read enough, it was almost intimidating.
This is just classic John Grisham. Nothing will ever be A Time to Kill, but this is a very nice follow-up that will keep you interested and leave you satisfied.
That’s all that I’ve got. If you’re one of the 25-30 regulars to the site – people like Jarrod Jackson – thank you. If you’re one of the 400 unique visitors that found the site because of the Kiffin post, thanks for coming back.
Go be kind. Have a great weekend.