Summary and book reviews of A Painted House by John Grisham

A Painted House

by John Grisham

A Painted House
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2000, 400 pages
    Paperback:
    Dec 2001, 496 pages

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Book Summary

A Painted House is a moving story of one boy's journey from innocence to experience inspired by Grisham's own childhood in rural Arkansas.

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."

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.

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.

A Painted House is a moving story of one boy's journey from innocence to experience.

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, ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Luke Chandler is exposed to events that many adults have never even seen. What is the effect of reading about these circumstances—from a difficult childbirth to the possibility of financial ruin—through the eyes of a seven-year-old narrator?

  2. The Chandlers cannot afford some of the hallmarks of the 1950s American dream, such as a television set or a stylish-looking car. Yet other aspects of that time period, such as the Korean War, make an unmistakable impression on them. How does the Chandler household measure up to your own memories or impressions of that era?

  3. Several generations of women are presented in A Painted House, including Gran, Luke's mother, and Tally. How do contemporary women compare to those ...
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Reviews

Media Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Beth Amos

... at turns, heartwarming and heartbreaking. The tension is subtle but constant, with undercurrents that build toward a crescendo of explosive emotion. Parts of the story are grim, and the struggles often seem endless. But at the heart of it all is the essence of the human spirit and the story of one family's ability to love and survive in the face of overwhelming adversity.

Amazon.com - James Marcus

Grisham has delivered a quieter, more contemplative story, set in rural Arkansas in 1952 .......A Painted House suggests that he's perfectly capable of telling an involving story with nary a subpoena in sight.

Reader Reviews

Judy Adkins

The Painted House
Just discovered author John Grisham . In reading most books, I always reach some parts of "boredom"and skip so many pages. With "The Painted house",found myself totally engrossed !! Love the serious, the funny, down-to-earth...   Read More

Ashley H.

A Painted House
John Grisham's novel A Painted House is very unlike any of his other works and in that sense makes it a unique and interesting book. This book is narrated by seven year old Luke Chandler. Luke lives on a cotton farm and during cotton picking ...   Read More

shenae

this book is the best............... i just can't put it down

Grisham

A Very Good Book!!!!

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