(Please ignore the wonky format here. I had a run in with blog bug or something and can’t get this straight. Apologies.)
I read this one a little late. About 27 years late. Whatever.
I promise no MAJOR spoilers, but minor ones may abound. You guys probably know all this anyway.
# 1. It has been several years since I’ve read John Grisham. Previous to this one, I had only read two of his legal thrillers; The Firm, which I read when I was pregnant with Lindsay, (she’s 21 now), and The Testament. I liked both of them very much. But Mr. Grisham has written tons of legal thrillers since then and I haven’t been keeping up. He’s also written other books, not about the law, that I’ve enjoyed as well. I read A Painted House and thought about it often when I was reading Wiley Cash’s A Land More Kind Than Home. I’ve read Skipping Christmas, Bleachers, (which I loved), and Playing for Pizza. I forgot how much I really enjoy his writing. I mentioned recently on Facebook and Instagram that I appreciate his ability to communicate horrible things without giving me too much of the play by play. There are some horrible goings-on in A Time to Kill. If you can make it past chapter one, you can get through all of it.
The Plot. This is no major spoiler. A ten year old girl is raped, beaten, nearly hanged and left for dead by two scums of the earth. Her father avenges her by murdering the two rapists. I was surprised at my own thoughts here because instead of rejoicing in their deaths, I found myself feeling like they got off too easy. I wanted them to suffer the same fate they doled out, to slowly suffer a horrific rape and beating, and THEN die. Now, after reading the whole story, I would prefer that they endure all of that and NOT die, but have to live with it the rest of their days. Because that is the ongoing gift of turmoil that they gave the little girl. BUT, it was not my story to tell and Mr. Grisham did a fine job telling it his way.
The Lawyer, Jake Brigance. Although I was always rooting for him, I just couldn’t get to where I adored him. He was a tad cocky. I like that in some characters but I wanted humility in him. I also wanted him to be brilliant, he wasn’t. He was your basic, everyday, flawed human. I’ve got no problem with that, I’m flawed too, I was just expecting him to be a hero, and he really wasn’t. But can I tell you how happy I was that even in his humanity, he found no room to be unfaithful to his wife? Even when opportunity and temptation were set before him on a silver platter? With all that he had going on, and my word the stuff that went wrong, he was smart enough to not add stupid to the list.
Why do people drink themselves under the table when they have to be in court at 9 am the next day??? Why do you want to add a hangover to everything else that is working against you? The alcohol! I mean, I understand a drink or two after work but these people, I don’t know how they functioned. Dude. A man’s life is in your hands. Drink later.
The language. It’s been a long time since I’ve talked about this. There was not a single instance of God’s name being misused in this book. If you know me, you know how I feel about this. If you are a new reader, then you can read more of how I feel about it here. I read a lot, I see it a lot, I’m not shocked by it, I just don’t like it. I just happen to be someone who notices, in anything I read or watch, whether or not it occurs. Most of us have sensitivities to some things that we don’t care to encounter in person or in our entertainment. That one is mine. I will cringe at every offense. It’s sad to me how it saturates so much of literature, which forces one to acknowledge that it’s a reflection of reality. All that being said….the N word was all over the place.
On a philosophical note. I’m interested to see what you may feel about the whole idea of revenge as it plays out in this story. Was Carl Lee, the father, right in what he did? I don’t question what the rapists deserved, I’m clear on that, but as far as what Carl Lee did, was he right? And if so, is it right to convict him of murder under those circumstances? Also, if we determine that he is right in what he did, then is he right to want to be free of the consequence of what he did? In other words, I can see where someone would have no problem taking revenge for their daughter, but would they really expect not to pay for that? That was my only internal conflict in the story. Even though the killings were justified in my mind, I was never comfortable with the thought that he could do it and not be punished by law. I would expect him to take the revenge in spite of the consequences, but not in the hopes of avoiding them.
I sort of loved this book. It was fast paced, exciting, well written and it provided a scenario for me to ponder what I would have done if I were Carl Lee. I’m interested to know your thoughts about it too.
I liked the protagonist of The Firm better than the one from A Time to Kill. I think The Firm is arguably Grisham’s best early book (maybe his best ever), but A Time to Kill is his first book…the one he coddled and brought out of the intense effort of a first attempt. It’s a great book. The Firm seemed more character driven while A Time to Kill is more plot driven. I agree that the “justice” of what the girl’s father did is at the heart of then book…and what should be “justice” for him is what the trial is about. I read The Chamber, The Testament, The Pelican Brief, The Client, The Rainmaker, The Runaway Jury, The Partner, The Street Lawyer and The Summons.
I agree with what you said about The Firm. I liked that protagonist better too, but I remember him being being seduced by the bad guy, (girl), and so Jake wins in that department.:) Both good books though. The Firm stuck with me for a while. It was eye opening. I learned a lot about billing.:)