Top positive review
The Reckoning by John Grisham: Silence Is Golden
Reviewed in India on 5 November 2018
One thing is certain; though he can still tell a story, John Grisham’s best days are already behind him.
For an author who churns out novel after novel (starting from January 1st every year and ending by July 31st), it was only to be expected.
While Grisham’s s 40th novel has some messages, albeit meant to be interpreted in your own way, it’s a decent read.
It’s also the saddest novel Grisham has ever written, which is unusual as every story of his ends with some hope.
In India, we will identify with the conclusion, which is based on Karma.
It’s also Grisham’s most ambitious novel, different from what he normally writes ( this is deliberate, I feel) and at this stage in life, he can afford to be experimental.
The first part (there are three main parts in this 500 plus page novel) starts with a crime, a per-medicated murder: since this is the 40s America: the murder is shocking when one looks at the race and the social status of the victim and the murderer.
Why would a respected war hero cold-bloodily gun down the local pastor?
That’s the central mystery , mentioned on the book’s flap.
The explanation(s) comes only in the last ten pages.
While the first start is deft with the vintage Grisham narration (good and bad lawyers, greedy lawyers, families torn apart, small-town prejudices, sibling love, racism and of course, the courtroom drama) and his choice of words that helps the predictable story spring along, effortlessly, to its conclusion; it’s the second part, a flashback, dealing with the horrors the Japanese inflicted on the Americans and the Filipinos, in the Second World War, that is so monotonous and dreary, not unlike a history book.
There is so much violence, sentence after sentence, that one becomes numb to it.
However, Grisham wants you to see the bigger picture and the violence is present for a reason.
it is Grisham’s understated manner in driving home a point that a person is capable of enduring tremendous physical pain as long as he has something to look forward to at the end of an ordeal, in this case, his home and family.
If those very reasons let him down: there is nothing in life to look forward to.
The third part comes back to the present, where the first ended, and picks up again to its tepid end.
Grisham shows that a momentary weakness, however justified it may have been at that time,, can set a chain of events that can be devastating for the family, and for generations to come.
Can one love someone without forgiveness?
Grisham thinks so.
Sometimes, silence can be the best weapon ( and maybe, the only one) against hurt, even if has to involve a loss of life (or two) and the reverberations felt generations after.
The logic of the main protagonist’s actions may be flawed but understandable, to an extent.
Recommended for Grisham fans.