Summary and book reviews of The Summons by John Grisham

The Summons

by John Grisham

The Summons by John Grisham X
The Summons by John Grisham
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2002, 384 pages
    Paperback:
    Dec 2002, 384 pages

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Book Summary

Ray heads south, to his hometown to meet with his dying father but 'The Judge' dies too soon leaving behind a shocking secret known only to Ray and perhaps someone else.

Ray Atlee is a professor of law at the University of Virginia. He's forty-three, newly single, and still enduring the aftershocks of a surprise divorce. He has a younger brother, Forrest, who redefines the notion of a family's black sheep.

And he has a father, a very sick old man who lives alone in the ancestral home in Clanton, Mississippi. He is known to all as Judge Atlee, a beloved and powerful official who has towered over local law and politics for forty years. No longer on the bench, the Judge has withdrawn to the Atlee mansion and become a recluse.

With the end in sight, Judge Atlee issues a summons for both sons to return home to Clanton, to discuss the details of his estate. It is typed by the Judge himself, on his handsome old stationery, and gives the date and time for Ray and Forrest to appear in his study.

Ray reluctantly heads south, to his hometown, to the place where he grew up, which he prefers now to avoid. But the family meeting does not take place. The Judge dies too soon, and in doing so leaves behind a shocking secret known only to Ray.

And perhaps someone else.

Chapter 1

It came by mail, regular postage, the old-fashioned way since the Judge was almost eighty and distrusted modern devices. Forget e-mail and even faxes. He didn't use an answering machine and had never been fond of the telephone. He pecked out his letters with both index fingers, one feeble key at a time, hunched over his old Underwood manual on a rolltop desk under the portrait of Nathan Bedford Forrest. The Judge's grandfather had fought with Forrest at Shiloh and throughout the Deep South, and to him no figure in history was more revered. For thirty-two years, the Judge had quietly refused to hold court on July 13, Forrest's birthday.

It came with another letter, a magazine, and two invoices, and was routinely placed in the law school mailbox of Professor Ray Atlee. He recognized it immediately since such envelopes had been a part of his life for as long as he could remember. It was from his father, a man he too called the Judge.

Professor Atlee studied the envelope...

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Reviews

Media Reviews

USA Today - Deirdre Donahue
Some of my happiest, most relaxing reading moments have been spent in the entertaining company of John Grisham. And his new novel, The Summons, ranks as my absolute favorite in many years. After taking a break from writing legal thrillers to write the more literary A Painted House and the holiday fable Skipping Christmas, the prolific Grisham appears more fresh. First, there is an ending too delicious and morally instructive to give away. Second, the novel, Grisham's 14th, skillfully tours the New South of gambling casinos, endless self-storage centers and ultra-rich lawyers who sue multinational corporations.

Reader Reviews

Mike

Mississippi
Like many of John Grisham's fine novels this story meanders along like the great Mississippi then ends with the rapids.

Kay

The Summons
What I liked best about this Grisham book was that Ray was SO human; scared, can't shoot a gun, not sure what to do. So many of Grisham's heros are so smart, physically fit, etc. that they feel like fiction, but Ray was someone I can relate to. He ...   Read More

Spencer

An exciting legal thriller
I really enjoyed this book and would strongly recommend it. It had a great plot and a great ending. Once again, excellent job Mr. Grisham!

Ashlee

This book was great I'm 17 and just love each and every one of Grisham's book however this one is among my favorites. The build up to the end was exciting, and suspenseful. The book was very well written and I would recommend it to anyone who likes ...   Read More

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