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Cotton and baseball fill the life of seven-year-old Luke Chandler, but in the harvest season of 1952, his world is transformed by a series of secrets. The promise of 80 acres of a good crop necessitates the hiring of Mexican migrant workers and the Sproul family from the Ozarks to help pick the cotton. As narrator, Luke provides a child's-eye view of innocence, wonder, and confusion that is also rich with hopes for his beloved St. Louis Cardinals and overwhelmed by row after row of cotton. Grisham here leaves his familiar genre to create a powerfully touching family story that David Lansbury's narration captures perfectly. There's not a lawyer in sight, but Grisham fans should be pleased with the well-defined characters and conflicts. Highly recommended. Joyce Kessel, Villa Maria Coll., Buffalo, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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For preternaturally prescient Lucas Chandler, the year 1952 is full of secrets--sweet, tragic, and mysterious. At 7, he still sleeps under the bed when he's scared and disappears behind his mother's skirts from time to time. But he's old enough to understand that prejudice, class rivalry (townies paint their houses; farmers don't), and violence are part of the fabric of his outwardly quiet farming community, and that he shouldn't be watching an unmarried teen give birth or pretty 17-year-old Tally bathing in the creek (even if she says it's okay). He also realizes that by confessing he's witnessed two vicious killings, he'll be threatening his family's livelihood and putting his loved ones in danger. Abandoning the political and courtroom venues of his popular thrillers, Grisham calls up the cotton fields of his native Arkansas for this somewhat unfocused coming-of-age story, which lacks the punch and cleverness of his other fiction. The characters rarely get beyond stereotypes (especially the Mexican migrant workers), even with respect to the 1950s bucolic setting, and narrator Lucas sounds far more like a 12-year-old than a second-grader. The measured, descriptive prose is readable, to be sure, and there are some truly tender moments, but this is surface without substance, simply an adequate effort in a genre that has exploded with quality over the last several years. --Stephanie Zvirin

  Reseña de Kirkus

This simple tale of cotton harvesting in 1952 Arkansas offers the curious a chance to see what Grisham would be like without all the lawyers. Now that the weather's been suspiciously clement all season, Luke Chandler's father is looking for temporary labor to pick the 80 acres of cotton his family rents. He finds a hill family, the Spruills, who promptly pitch camp on Luke's baseball diamond in the front yard, and ten migrant Mexicans who all set to picking alongside the Chandlers. As the days grow shorter, Luke's dreams of moving to St. Louis and playing for the Cardinals are nurtured by Stan Musial's run at the batting title, and he prays his big brother Ricky will come home safely and soon from Korea and worries that he'll get beaten for all manner of infractions. Meanwhile, hulking Hank Spruill wades into a street brawl and leaves a man dead; his sister Tally takes up with one of the Mexican pickers; their younger brother Trot, whose withered arm keeps him from picking much cotton, gets the fantastical idea of painting the Chandlers' weathered house. As the improbable repository of the family secrets, Luke watches the episodic season unfold, but knows he can't say anything against the Spruills—not even the dangerous Hank—because trouble for any of them would chase the rest of them away, and his father needs every picker he can get. So the families drift along in a quietly uneasy alliance till the inevitable climax—still another moment Luke will have to keep secret. What's Grisham like sans lawyers? Leisurely and sentimental, a little like The Cider House Rules , The Human Comedy , The Adventures of Tom Sawyer , and presumably a lot more like his own Arkansas childhood—yet not all that much different in this coming-of-age story from A Time to Kill , The Firm , and all those other tales of grown-up naïfs in three-piece suits.
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."<br> <br> Thus begins the new novel from John Grisham, a story inspired by his own childhood in rural Arkansas. The narrator is a farm boy named Luke Chandler, age seven, who lives in the cotton fields with his parents and grandparents in a little house that's never been painted. The Chandlers farm eighty acres that they rent, not own, and when the cotton is ready they hire a truckload of Mexicans and a family from the Ozarks to help harvest it.<br> <br> For six weeks they pick cotton, battling the heat, the rain, the fatigue, and, sometimes, each other. As the weeks pass Luke sees and hears things no seven-year-old could possibly be prepared for, and finds himself keeping secrets that not only threaten the crop but will change the lives of the Chandlers forever.<br> <br> A Painted House is a moving story of one boy's journey from innocence to experience.<br> <br> <br> On-sale February 6, 2001.
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