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published: 1st March 2007

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a painted house

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 two weeks to go, and the season looked hopeless. The cotton, however, was waist high to my father, almost 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 seven year old farm boy named Luke Chandler, 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.
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2 Reviews
Great reading!
Brian Laseby
In the very first page you are transported to Arkansas in 1952. The graphic prose vividly portrays the trials and tribulations of a 7 year old boy, an only child, living with parents and grandparents, on a farm in the cotton belt. Luke Chandler's dream of, one day, playing for the Cardinals, is way off in the future. This, and the ending, when Luke and his parents forsake the back-breaking toil and uncertainty of farming life, for a new venture in Michigan, leads one to think that there must be a sequel to this wonderful story. Maybe there is already, if so, please let me know!