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A Painted House
Cover of A Painted House
A Painted House
Until that September of 1952, Luke Chandler had never kept a secret or told a single lie. But in the long, hot summer of his seventh year, two groups of migrant workers — and two very dangerous men — came through the Arkansas Delta to work the Chandler cotton farm. And suddenly mysteries are flooding Luke's world.
A brutal murder leaves the town seething in gossip and suspicion. A beautiful young woman ignites forbidden passions. A fatherless baby is born ... and someone has begun furtively painting the bare clapboards of the Chandler farmhouse, slowly, painstakingly, bathing the run-down structure in gleaming white. And as young Luke watches the world around him, he unravels secrets that could shatter lives — and change his family and his town forever....
From the Paperback edition.
Until that September of 1952, Luke Chandler had never kept a secret or told a single lie. But in the long, hot summer of his seventh year, two groups of migrant workers — and two very dangerous men — came through the Arkansas Delta to work the Chandler cotton farm. And suddenly mysteries are flooding Luke's world.
A brutal murder leaves the town seething in gossip and suspicion. A beautiful young woman ignites forbidden passions. A fatherless baby is born ... and someone has begun furtively painting the bare clapboards of the Chandler farmhouse, slowly, painstakingly, bathing the run-down structure in gleaming white. And as young Luke watches the world around him, he unravels secrets that could shatter lives — and change his family and his town forever....
From the Paperback edition.
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    9 - 12

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Excerpts-
  • From the book

    Chapter I

    The hill people and the Mexicans arrived on the same day. It was a Wednesday, early in September 1952. The Cardinals were five games behind the Dodgers with three weeks to go, and the season looked hopeless. The cotton, however, was waist-high to my father, over my head, and he and my grandfather could be heard before supper whispering words that were seldom heard. It could be a "good crop."

    They were farmers, hardworking men who embraced pessimism only when discussing the weather and the crops. There was too much sun, or too much rain, or the threat of floods in the lowlands, or the rising prices of seed and fertilizer, or the uncertainties of the markets. On the most perfect of days, my mother would quietly say to me, "Don't worry. The men will find something to worry about."

    Pappy, my grandfather, was worried about the price for labor when we went searching for the hill people. They were paid for every hundred pounds of cotton they picked. The previous year, according to him, it was $1.50 per hundred. He'd already heard rumors that a farmer over in Lake City was offering $1.60.

    This played heavily on his mind as we rode to town. He never talked when he drove, and this was because, according to my mother, not much of a driver herself, he was afraid of motorized vehicles. His truck was a 1939 Ford, and with the exception of our old John Deere tractor, it was our sole means of transportation. This was no particular problem except when we drove to church and my mother and grandmother were forced to sit snugly together up front in their Sunday best while my father and I rode in the back, engulfed in dust. Modern sedans were scarce in rural Arkansas.

    Pappy drove thirty-seven miles per hour. His theory was that every automobile had a speed at which it ran most efficiently, and through some vaguely defined method he had determined that his old truck should go thirty-seven. My mother said (to me) that it was ridiculous.

    She also said he and my father had once fought over whether the truck should go faster. But my father rarely drove it, and if I happened to be riding with him, he would level off at thirty-seven, out of respect for Pappy. My mother said she suspected he drove much faster when he was alone.

    We turned onto Highway 135, and, as always, I watched Pappy carefully shift the gears -- pressing slowly on the clutch, delicately prodding the stick shift on the steering column -- until the truck reached its perfect speed. Then I leaned over to check the speedometer: thirty-seven. He smiled at me as if we both agreed that the truck belonged at that speed.

    Highway 135 ran straight and flat through the farm country of the Arkansas Delta. On both sides as far as I could see, the fields were white with cotton. It was time for the harvest, a wonderful season for me because they turned out school for two months. For my grandfather, though, it was a time of endless worry.



    On the right, at the Jordan place, we saw a group of Mexicans working in the field near the road. They were stooped at the waist, their cotton sacks draped behind them, their hands moving deftly through the stalks, tearing off the bolls. Pappy grunted. He didn't like the Jordans because they were Methodists -- and Cubs fans. Now that they already had workers in their fields, there was another reason to dislike them.

    The distance from our farm to town was fewer than eight miles, but at thirty-seven miles an hour, the trip took twenty minutes. Always twenty minutes, even with little traffic. Pappy didn't believe in passing slower vehicles in front of him. Of course, he was usually the slow one.

    Near Black Oak, we...

About the Author-
  • John Grisham lives with his family in Virginia and Mississippi. His previous novels are A Time to Kill, The Firm, The Pelican Brief, The Client, The Chamber, The Rainmaker, The Runaway Jury, The Partner, The Street Lawyer, and The Testament.
Reviews-
  • AudioFile Magazine In case you haven't heard, there's nary a lawyer or a court battle in Grisham's latest--the story of 7-year-old Luke Chandler's life on an Arkansas cotton farm during the Korean War. David Lansbury's narration complements the story perfectly. His soft Southern voice ably captures Grisham's loving evocation of time and place, as well as the growing tension that simmers between the itinerant Mexican farm workers and the locals. Lansbury projects the nostalgia of Grisham's tale without succumbing to sentimentality. When the situation explodes into a brutal murder, his voice echoes the momentum of the story. His ability to elicit Luke's emotions and concerns captures a summer seared into the youngster's--and the listener's--memories. D.J.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award. (c) AudioFile 2001, Portland, Maine
  • Publisher's Weekly

    June 4, 2001
    Grisham fans will not despair as they discover that this finely wrought tale includes no lawyers. Instead, the author presents an evocation of the life of a young boy growing up on a Southern farm in hard times during the fall 1952 cotton-picking season. Lansbury, an actor of stage and screens, both big and small, brings a sweet innocence to the voice of narrator, Luke Chandler. Luke, a curious, even nosy seven-year-old, witnesses a series of events that range from the dramatic to the profoundly disturbing—including a birth, a flood and a couple of killings. Lansbury gives each character his or her own distinctive voice: low and gruff for Luke's grandfather, Pappy; tough and huffy for troublesome Hank, one of the "hill people" the Chandlers hire to help pick the cotton; soft and gentle for Luke's mother. The range of voices helps listeners as he enacts dialogue; but when switching between dialogue and his narration as Luke, Lansbury's performance is far less smooth. Still, Lansbury's is an effective reading of a provocative novel that will please and surprise Grisham's many fans. Simultaneous release with the Doubleday hardcover (Forecasts, Jan. 22).

  • The New York Times Book Review "John Grisham is about as good a storyteller as we've got."
  • Entertainment Weekly "The kind of book you read slowly because you don't want it to end ... John Grisham takes command of this literary category just as forcefully as he did legal thrillers with The Firm.... Never let it be said this man doesn't know how to spin a good yarn."
  • Publishers Weekly "Characters that no reader will forget. .. prose as clean and strong as any Grisham has yet laid down ... and a drop-dead evocation of a time and place that mark this novel as a classic slice of Americana."
  • Seattle Times "Some of the finest dialogue of his career ... Every detail rings clear and true, and nothing is wasted."
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John Grisham
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