A Painted House by John GrishamA Painted House by John Grisham

A Painted House

byJohn Grisham

Hardcover | February 6, 2001

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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.

On-sale February 6, 2001.
John Grisham is the author of The Brethren, The Testament, The Street Lawyer, The Partner, The Runaway Jury, The Rainmaker, The Chamber, The Client, The Pelican Brief, The Firm, and A Time to Kill.
Title:A Painted HouseFormat:HardcoverDimensions:400 pages, 9.52 × 6.38 × 1.28 inPublished:February 6, 2001Publisher:Knopf Doubleday Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:038550120x

ISBN - 13:9780385501200

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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Just wonderful Definitely not your typical Grisham novel, but just a wonderful read. Curl up in your favourite chair and just enjoy. It's a little bit of a history lesson as well. You will get it all in this book - mystery and intrigue, love, hate, corruption, injustice and hope.
Date published: 2017-01-05
Rated 3 out of 5 by from made me wonder why a great author who has a kult like following would drift so far from what he is great at? Painted House is a good read, and I may one day read it again, but would not be the first book i recomend.
Date published: 2008-02-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Absolutely Enjoyable I really enjoyed this book. It kept my interest from start to finish. Reading about the Chandler family and their cotton farm opened my eyes to a very different way of life. Farming is tough work and during the summer of 1952 the Chandler family had to deal with a lot more than just a tough crop to pick. They were forced to deal with violent hired workers, a fatherless baby that is born in their town, and even murder. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading about families and their struggles and how they overcome them.
Date published: 2007-04-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from a painted house This is the kind of book you want to never end! luke makes the story exiting. it full of mystery and danger! Rual Arkinssa was the perfect location to set this book! GO CARDNIALS!
Date published: 2006-11-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Sad that it's over... Just finished reading this book about 5 minutes ago, It is definitely on my favorites list, but I have to admit something was missing. Unfortunately I can't put my finger on it. The start was a little slow, I wondered for awhile if anything was going to happen. Then it all started coming together and for about 8 hours I was unable to put it down. Altogether I have to say it flowed quite nicely, John did a great job on this one. I wish I could just figure out what it is that's missing...
Date published: 2002-09-01
Rated 1 out of 5 by from So dullllllllllllllllll ! This is not the John Grisham that I'm used to read. I'm on page 306 out of 465 and nothing yet. Hope he'll come back to his ownself. The Chicago Tribune wrote that he keeps subtly building the tension. It is so subtle that I'm not feeling it yet.
Date published: 2002-08-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Awesome! This book was one of the best I have ever read. I read it for summer reading in 10th grade and I thought it was fabulous. John Grisham sure knows how to keep your interest! Read it!
Date published: 2002-08-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great!! This is, so far as I know, Grisham's second departure from his legal thrillers. I have read several of his previous works and I found this novel to be a refresing change for the writer. The story, set on a southern Cotton farm, is told through the eyes of a 7 year old boy. Through his words you meet many interesting characters which is what makes this book such a great read. As I approached the end of the book, I was hoping for another 200 pages to find out more about the main character, as well as the others in the novel. Even though I enjoy Grisham's legals thrillers I hope to see more like this one in the future. For a lighter hearted and touching read check out John's Skipping Christmas as well! He is a fantastic story teller.
Date published: 2002-07-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A GREAT book! I was reccomended A Painted House by my mom when we were in the Tampa airport. She said she loved John Grisham, so I thought I'd like to try it out. I bought it, and another book and couldn't wait to settle down and read it! It took me a while to read, because to tell you the truth, I'm 13 and this was the first book I had read that was that long. When I was about half way done, and really into it, I lost for about two weeks, I was devistated, I was ready to go out and buy another! Finally, I found it. It ended up being in my desk at school, burried under my pencil case! I finally finished it, and I LOVED it! I'm really into mysteries, and it was a good one! For me it was one of those books that is really sad when your finished it, for about two weeks after I kept thinking I wasn't done, so I would go and get it, and then remember that I was already done! I really hope John Grisham writes a sequal because the end is something that could definately be followed, it was a mega cliffhanger
Date published: 2002-06-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Young Reader's Thoughts Though I am only thirteen, this book captured me and inspired me and wouldn't let me put it down. I couldn't recommend it to a certain group of readers because it is a book for all. Normally I am not interested in books that are about the past or farming, but this one instantly took me in. The end was sad and will bring a tear to your eye, guaranteed. I was recommened this book by my mother, and am for sure going to read others of his (this was my first!) Even though I am sure it is directed towards adult readers, there is nothing that should prevent a younger reader from enjoying his talents. I give John Grisham's A Painted House ****!
Date published: 2002-05-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An Underrated Effort I am surprised to be reading negative reviews of this novel. I suspect that anyone not named John Grisham would be applauded for such quality work. Perhaps Mr. Grisham should have considered adopting a pen name. A Painted House will someday be called a classic. It is a pitch-perfect time capsule, examining a lost way of life.
Date published: 2002-04-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Painted House This book was great. I really enjoyed it, the characters were great. The book wasn't like most other John Grisham books, but it was still good. The story was about a family and how they coped with live in rural Arkansas. Thre were many different plot twists and the ending was really good. It kept you wondering what would happen next and what happened to them after the book finished. The book was well written and very exiting. I recomend this book to anyone who likes a good story. There were very little problems with this book. It was great.
Date published: 2002-04-04
Rated 1 out of 5 by from A Painted House if you want to read about baseball and picking cotton for 300 pages then this is the book for you!! I thought that something exciting would happen - maybe something suspenseful! No such luck!
Date published: 2002-03-20
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Ended too soon... I loved this book! It started out a bit slowly but soon had me mesmerized. Mr. Grisham succeeds in transporting us to the farm with his wonderful narrative. It ended way too soon! I'm itching to know what happens next...
Date published: 2002-03-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Refreshing Change Living during the 1950's was tough enough without being sworn to secrecy more often in a single summer than most people do in a lifetime. Having witnessed two murders, the birth of the illegitimate baby, a nephew at war, and another year of his beloved St. Louis Cardinals not winning the pennant is about all 7-year old Luke can take. But he does with the maturity of someone many years older. Despite straying from the safe and secure confines of lawyers, judges, courtrooms and trials, Grisham's vivid description of the sights and sounds and scenery had me rubbing shoulders with Luke, his parents and grandparents, the Mexicans and the hill people. Despite his foray into a world without lawyers, Grisham's ability to keep me spellbound with his writing style was witnessed by the fact it only took 4 days to read the 388 pages.
Date published: 2001-05-21
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Different from normal Grisham works Still up to his usual quality, though. In A Painted House, Grisham uses his writing skills in a different fashion, leaving lawyers and the courtroom far behind. An interesting novel, which is for the most part peaceful and slow-moving, with moments of excitement thoughout, told through the eyes of a 7 year-old farm child. If you want a book that is thrilling and fast-moving, choose another title, but most Grisham fans will enjoy this departure.
Date published: 2001-05-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Painted House - excellent! Thoroughly enjoyed reading this book! The subject matter is so different from all Mr. Grisham's other novels. The excerpt does not do the book justice. It is very witty and at times quite moving. You will want the story to continue once you have come to the last page!
Date published: 2001-04-20
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Not Grishamesque... Although this book is definitely not Grishamesque it remains a very good read. I was pleasantly surprised at how much I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Grishy constantly left me wanting to know what was going to happen next. No need to be a diehard Grisham fan to appreciate this one.
Date published: 2001-04-09
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Left Me Hanging John Grisham has delved away from his usual legal thrillers by writing an enchanting book through the eyes of a young boy. The simple joys of a Saturday matinee, the raw brutal fear of a terrible secret too deadly to reveal, characters that tug at our heartstrings and those that anger us. Poverty and hope all entertwined in this delightful book. This marvelous book keep me up at night reading until the very disappointing ending and I have to wonder if a sequel is planned or if Grisham's dog ate the last few chapters before he had to get it to the publishers. I was left very disappointed at the bland ending to what was a very promising and exciting book.
Date published: 2001-03-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Folklore Legend In his latest novel "A Painted House", Mr. Grisham has combined the magic of W.P. Kinsella, W.O. Mitchell and Harper Lee into a wonderful piece of folklore legend. I applaud him for his courageous cross-over into this realm. It certainly would have been much safer to remain in the legal thriller world and avoid the vitriolic respones of a few disgruntled readers and critics. Mr. Grisham, this was an enjoyable escape into nostalgia and I forgive you for writing "The Brethern".
Date published: 2001-03-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from FANTASTIC I have read all of Grisham's books and even though this one is not his usual kind of story I think it is excellent! much better than his last book. It was easy reading and very enjoyable!
Date published: 2001-03-22
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Disappointment I took this book and threw it in the fire...It was horrific. I expected way more out of this book I think this book should have never been published.John Grisham is the worst author on the face of this planet...How can he even call himself an author?Beats me.
Date published: 2001-03-19
Rated 1 out of 5 by from the Painted House John Grisham has demeaned himself with this terrible excuse for a Book, as compared to his successes. Why a publisher would sell this and why he would put his name to it is the question. Just money I guess. A public con, we expected more.
Date published: 2001-03-13
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Lisag This book was a pleasant surprise! I thought that it was quite interesting right through, (though, I do prefer his writing based on lawyers), John Grisham's style always keeps me entertained.
Date published: 2001-03-08
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Fast, enjoyable reading I have read all of John's books and I find them all hard to put down. This one especially. It was very easy reading and the characters are all easy to get to know without much discription of them. Since it is written in the first person of a seven year old boy, it is a very nostalgic book. I give John credit for going out on a limb and trying something so different than what his fans are used to, but I hope he continues to write his "traditional legal stories". This is a book that people of all ages can read and follow without any difficulty.
Date published: 2001-02-25
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Good... but different John Grisham is without a doubt my favorite author, and I love the intrigue and unexpected twists that usually come with his legal thrillers. This book was nothing like that. For the first third of the book, I was waiting for the scene to change, or something new to happen which would bring it into Grisham's usual genre, but it never happened. Nonetheless, I still enjoyed the book, and it is worth reading, but it's much more of a slower-paced drama than his usual offerings. I suspect John Grisham enjoyed the change of style, but I hope he returns to what he is a master at.
Date published: 2001-02-21
Rated 2 out of 5 by from the painted house Differernt,the storyline was mundane.I was not intrigued by the characters as I was in all his previous books,Writing about something different was good.I just didn't enjoy this one.
Date published: 2001-02-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Painted House This is the first John Grisham book that I have read. I finished it in three days. I thought it was a great book, a real page turner. You could never expect what was going to happen next. I know that this book is a departure from his others, but I am going to start reading them. If they are anything near as good as this book, I know that I will enjoy them.
Date published: 2001-02-20
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Quite a switch... Grisham's newest book, A Painted House, is definitely nothing like The Pelican Brief, except in grizley murders. Changing genre is never easy--ask Julie Andrews how hard it is to escape from Sound of Music. Grisham has tried something different and probably done well, but we the audience had other expectations. Judging by how well Jan Karon's Mitford series is selling, and by how popular boxed sets of Laura Ingals Wilder's Little House series still are, and even Ralph Moody's Little Britches saga, Grisham could turn A Painted House into a continuing tale. Does Pappy finish painting the house? Do Tally and Cowboy end up in Montreal? Does Ricky come home from Korea, and if he does, will he marry Libby? Does Luke go play for the Cards? Do the Latchers ever go home? After being immersed in a seven-year-old's world for 388 pages, I feel like a seven-year-old again and am curious to find out what happened, even though I'm 52 and lived through the coming of television, the Korean conflict, and the age of Tootsie Rolls. Grisham's characters pass the test of believeability, and for that I can forgive the sometimes tedious weather and flood reports.
Date published: 2001-02-17
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Disappointment of the Year A Painted House is being hailed as a departure from Grisham's usual style. As far as this reader is concerned, he should have stayed with what has made him so successful. A Painted House lacks the fast moving, intriguing plot that has been Grisham's forte. The paucity of conflict and unbelievable characterization result in a plodding series of vignettes. This novel is about as exciting as watching paint dry or reading 30 essays on "what I did on my summer holidays". Give it a miss.
Date published: 2001-02-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Painted House Although it is not like any of Grisham's other novels, this is a masterpiece. The writing flows and moves quickly. A story of a seven year old boy as the cotton picking season begins is absolutely amazing. I find that I can't stop reading this book.
Date published: 2001-02-10
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Perfect for Oprah's Book Club If you've read and enjoyed all of his previous legal thrillers, this may not be a book for you. A Painted House is a good story - if you're a fan of Oprah's Book Club! Set in rural Arkansas, a poor white family picks cotton with the help of migrant Mexicans and hillbillies. Full of cliches, and beyond predictable, this book was a major disappointment.
Date published: 2001-02-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Perfect Yarn I have to admit that I have been disappointed with Grisham's last few efforts. He is usually a good page-turner, but his last few books lacked the energy and fun his first books had. A Painted House is Grisham's first book without any lawyer, judges or things like that. This is his most mature effort, and it is also his best book for that matter. From the very first page, you get enthralled in this story about a family living on an Arkansas coton farm. As the time for picking coton arrives, the family will find itself entangled in various tragedies. The book is narrated by a seven year old boy, and Grisham's choice of words is perfect to portray this boy's memories. You get a feel of nostalgia from the very first page and that feel remains present until the very last page. I found myself loving this book more and more as my reading went on. This is a great effort for Grisham and it almost makes you hope that he will stop writing courtroom dramas to write more books like this one. This is the best book of 2001 so far, a perfect read.
Date published: 2001-02-08
Rated 4 out of 5 by from AN AMAZING BOOK I was totally transported to another place and time reading this book. The characters were well developed, the story line believable and the tone and mood spectaular. More then once I had to remind myself that this was a John Grisham book, because after his last few terrible legal books it was hard to believe he could write such a great book. I would highly recommend this book.
Date published: 2001-02-08

Read from the Book

Chapter IThe 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, according to him, it was $1.50 per hundred. He'd already heard rumors that a farmer over in Lake City was offering $1.60.This played heavily on his mind as we rode to town. He never talked when he drove, and this was because, according to my mother, not much of a driver herself, he was afraid of motorized vehicles. His truck was a 1939 Ford, and with the exception of our old John Deere tractor, it was our sole means of transportation. This was no particular problem except when we drove to church and my mother and grandmother were forced to sit snugly together up front in their Sunday best while my father and I rode in the back, engulfed in dust. Modern sedans were scarce in rural Arkansas.Pappy drove thirty-seven miles per hour. His theory was that every automobile had a speed at which it ran most efficiently, and through some vaguely defined method he had determined that his old truck should go thirty-seven. My mother said (to me) that it was ridiculous. She also said he and my father had once fought over whether the truck should go faster. But my father rarely drove it, and if I happened to be riding with him, he would level off at thirty-seven, out of respect for Pappy. My mother said she suspected he drove much faster when he was alone.We turned onto Highway 135, and, as always, I watched Pappy carefully shift the gears—pressing slowly on the clutch, delicately prodding the stick shift on the steering column—until the truck reached its perfect speed. Then I leaned over to check the speedometer: thirty-seven. He smiled at me as if we both agreed that the truck belonged at that speed.Highway 135 ran straight and flat through the farm country of the Arkansas Delta. On both sides as far as I could see, the fields were white with cotton. It was time for the harvest, a wonderful season for me because they turned out school for two months. For my grandfather, though, it was a time of endless worry....On the right, at the Jordan place, we saw a group of Mexicans working in the field near the road. They were stooped at the waist, their cotton sacks draped behind them, their hands moving deftly through the stalks, tearing off the bolls. Pappy grunted. He didn't like the Jordans because they were Methodists—and Cubs fans. Now that they already had workers in their fields, there was another reason to dislike them.The distance from our farm to town was fewer than eight miles, but at thirty-seven miles an hour, the trip took twenty minutes. Always twenty minutes, even with little traffic. Pappy didn't believe in passing slower vehicles in front of him. Of course, he was usually the slow one. Near Black Oak, we caught up to a trailer filled to the top with snowy mounds of freshly picked cotton. A tarp covered the front half, and the Montgomery twins, who were my age, playfully bounced around in all that cotton until they saw us on the road below them. Then they stopped and waved. I waved back, but my grandfather did not. When he drove, he never waved or nodded at folks, and this was, my mother said, because he was afraid to take his hands from the wheel. She said people talked about him behind his back, saying he was rude and arrogant. Personally, I don't think he cared how the gossip ran.We followed the Montgomery trailer until it turned at the cotton gin. It was pulled by their old Massey Harris tractor, and driven by Frank, the eldest Montgomery boy, who had dropped out of school in the fifth grade and was considered by everyone at church to be headed for serious trouble.Highway 135 became Main Street for the short stretch it took to negotiate Black Oak. We passed the Black Oak Baptist Church, one of the few times we'd pass without stopping for some type of service. Every store, shop, business, church, even the school, faced Main Street, and on Saturdays the traffic inched along, bumper to bumper, as the country folks flocked to town for their weekly shopping. But it was Wednesday, and when we got into town, we parked in front of Pop and Pearl Watson's grocery store on Main.I waited on the sidewalk until my grandfather nodded in the direction of the store. That was my cue to go inside and purchase a Tootsie Roll, on credit. It only cost a penny, but it was not a foregone conclusion that I would get one every trip to town. Occasionally, he wouldn't nod, but I would enter the store anyway and loiter around the cash register long enough for Pearl to sneak me one, which always came with strict instructions not to tell my grandfather. She was afraid of him. Eli Chandler was a poor man, but he was intensely proud. He would starve to death before he took free food, which, on his list, included Tootsie Rolls. He would've beaten me with a stick if he knew I had accepted a piece of candy, so Pearl Watson had no trouble swearing me to secrecy.But this time I got the nod. As always, Pearl was dusting the counter when I entered and gave her a stiff hug. Then I grabbed a Tootsie Roll from the jar next to the cash register. I signed the charge slip with great flair, and Pearl inspected my penmanship. "It's getting better, Luke," she said."Not bad for a seven-year-old," I said. Because of my mother, I had been practicing my name in cursive writing for two years. "Where's Pop?" I asked. They were the only adults I knew who insisted I call them by their "first" names, but only in the store when no one else was listening. If a customer walked in, then it was suddenly Mr. and Mrs. Watson. I told no one but my mother this, and she told me she was certain no other child held such privilege."In the back, putting up stock," Pearl said. "Where's your grandfather?"It was Pearl's calling in life to monitor the movements of the town's population, so any question was usually answered with another."The Tea Shoppe, checking on the Mexicans. Can I go back there?" I was determined to outquestion her."Better not. Y'all using hill people, too?""If we can find them. Eli says they don't come down like they used to. He also thinks they're all half crazy. Where's Champ?" Champ was the store's ancient beagle, which never left Pop's side.Pearl grinned whenever I called my grandfather by his first name. She was about to ask me a question when the small bell clanged as the door opened and closed. A genuine Mexican walked in, alone and timid, as they all seemed to be at first. Pearl nodded politely at the new customer. I shouted, "Buenos días, señor!"The Mexican grinned and said sheepishly, "Buenos días," before disappearing into the back of the store."They're good people," Pearl said under her breath, as if the Mexican spoke English and might be offended by something nice she said. I bit into my Tootsie Roll and chewed it slowly while rewrapping and pocketing the other half."Eli's worried about payin' them too much," I said. With a customer in the store, Pearl was suddenly busy again, dusting and straightening around the only cash register."Eli worries about everything," she said."He's a farmer.""Are you going to be a farmer?""No ma'am. A baseball player.""For the Cardinals?""Of course."Pearl hummed for a bit while I waited for the Mexican. I had some more Spanish I was anxious to try.The old wooden shelves were bursting with fresh groceries. I loved the store during picking season because Pop filled it from floor to ceiling. The crops were coming in, and money was changing hands.Pappy opened the door just wide enough to stick his head in. "Let's go," he said; then, "Howdy, Pearl.""Howdy, Eli," she said as she patted my head and sent me away."Where are the Mexicans?" I asked Pappy when we were outside."Should be in later this afternoon."We got back in the truck and left town in the direction of Jonesboro, where my grandfather always found the hill people....We parked on the shoulder of the highway, near the intersection of a gravel road. In Pappy's opinion, it was the best spot in the county to catch the hill people. I wasn't so sure. He'd been trying to hire some for a week with no results. We sat on the tailgate in the scorching sun in complete silence for half an hour before the first truck stopped. It was clean and had good tires. If we were lucky enough to find hill people, they would live with us for the next two months. We wanted folks who were neat, and the fact that this truck was much nicer than Pappy's was a good sign."Afternoon," Pappy said when the engine was turned off."Howdy," said the driver."Where y'all from?" asked Pappy."Up north of Hardy."With no traffic around, my grandfather stood on the pavement, a pleasant expression on his face, taking in the truck and its contents. The driver and his wife sat in the cab with a small girl between them. Three large teenaged boys were napping in the back. Everyone appeared to be healthy and well dressed. I could tell Pappy wanted these people."Y'all lookin' for work?" he asked."Yep. Lookin' for Lloyd Crenshaw, somewhere west of Black Oak." My grandfather pointed this way and that, and they drove off. We watched them until they were out of sight. He could've offered them more than Mr. Crenshaw was promising. Hill people were notorious for negotiating their labor. Last year, in the middle of the first picking on our place, the Fulbrights from Calico Rock disappeared one Sunday night and went to work for a farmer ten miles away.But Pappy was not dishonest, nor did he want to start a bidding war.We tossed a baseball along the edge of a cotton field, stopping whenever a truck approached.My glove was a Rawlings that Santa had delivered the Christmas before. I slept with it nightly and oiled it weekly, and nothing was as dear to my soul.My grandfather, who had taught me how to throw and catch and hit, didn't need a glove. His large, callused hands absorbed my throws without the slightest sting. Though he was a quiet man who never bragged, Eli Chandler had been a legendary baseball player. At the age of seventeen, he had signed a contract with the Cardinals to play professional baseball. But the First War called him, and not long after he came home, his father died. Pappy had no choice but to become a farmer.Pop Watson loved to tell me stories of how great Eli Chandler had been—how far he could hit a baseball, how hard he could throw one. "Probably the greatest ever from Arkansas," was Pop's assessment."Better than Dizzy Dean?" I would ask."Not even close," Pop would say, sighing.When I relayed these stories to my mother, she always smiled and said, "Be careful. Pop tells tales."Pappy, who was rubbing the baseball in his mammoth hands, cocked his head at the sound of a vehicle. Coming from the west was a truck with a trailer behind it. From a quarter of a mile away we could tell they were hill people. We walked to the shoulder of the road and waited as the driver downshifted, gears crunching and whining as he brought the truck to a stop. I counted seven heads, five in the truck, two in the trailer."Howdy," the driver said slowly, sizing up my grandfather as we in turn quickly scrutinized them."Good afternoon," Pappy said, taking a step closer but still keeping his distance.Tobacco juice lined the lower lip of the driver. This was an ominous sign. My mother thought most hill people were prone to bad hygiene and bad habits. Tobacco and alcohol were forbidden in our home. We were Baptists."Name's Spruill," he said."Eli Chandler. Nice to meet you. Y'all lookin' for work?""Yep.""Where you from?""Eureka Springs."The truck was almost as old as Pappy's, with slick tires and a cracked windshield and rusted fenders and what looked like faded blue paint under a layer of dust. A tier had been constructed above the bed, and it was crammed with cardboard boxes and burlap bags filled with supplies. Under it, on the floor of the bed, a mattress was wedged next to the cab. Two large boys stood on it, both staring blankly at me. Sitting on the tailgate, barefoot and shirtless, was a heavy young man with massive shoulders and a neck as thick as a stump. He spat tobacco juice between the truck and the trailer and seemed oblivious to Pappy and me. He swung his feet slowly, then spat again, never looking away from the asphalt beneath him."I'm lookin' for field hands," Pappy said."How much you payin'?" Mr. Spruill asked."One-sixty a hundred," Pappy said.Mr. Spruill frowned and looked at the woman beside him. They mumbled something.It was at this point in the ritual that quick decisions had to be made. We had to decide whether we wanted these people living with us. And they had to accept or reject our price."What kinda cotton?" Mr. Spruill asked."Stoneville," my grandfather said. "The bolls are ready. It'll be easy to pick." Mr. Spruill could look around him and see the bolls bursting. The sun and soil and rains had cooperated so far. Pappy, of course, had been fretting over some dire rainfall prediction in the Farmers' Almanac."We got one-sixty last year," Mr. Spruill said.I didn't care for money talk, so I ambled along the center line to inspect the trailer. The tires on the trailer were even balder than those on the truck. One was half flat from the load. It was a good thing that their journey was almost over.Rising in one corner of the trailer, with her elbows resting on the plank siding, was a very pretty girl. She had dark hair pulled tightly behind her head and big brown eyes. She was younger than my mother, but certainly a lot older than I was, and I couldn't help but stare."What's your name?" she said."Luke," I said, kicking a rock. My cheeks were immediately warm. "What's yours?""Tally. How old are you?""Seven. How old are you?""Seventeen.""How long you been ridin' in that trailer?""Day and a half."She was barefoot, and her dress was dirty and very tight—tight all the way to her knees. This was the first time I remember really examining a girl. She watched me with a knowing smile. A kid sat on a crate next to her with his back to me, and he slowly turned around and looked at me as if I weren't there. He had green eyes and a long forehead covered with sticky black hair. His left arm appeared to be useless."This is Trot," she said. "He ain't right.""Nice to meet you, Trot," I said, but his eyes looked away. He acted as if he hadn't heard me."How old is he?" I asked her."Twelve. He's a cripple."Trot turned abruptly to face a corner, his bad arm flopping lifelessly. My friend Dewayne said that hill people married their cousins and that's why there were so many defects in their families.Tally appeared to be perfect, though. She gazed thoughtfully across the cotton fields, and I admired her dirty dress once again. I knew my grandfather and Mr. Spruill had come to terms because Mr. Spruill started his truck. I walked past the trailer, past the man on the tailgate who was briefly awake but still staring at the pavement, and stood beside Pappy. "Nine miles that way, take a left by a burned-out barn, then six more miles to the St. Francis River. We're the first farm past the river on your left.""Bottomland?" Mr. Spruill asked, as if he were being sent into a swamp."Some of it is, but it's good land."Mr. Spruill glanced at his wife again, then looked back at us. "Where do we set up?""You'll see a shady spot in the back, next to the silo. That's the best place."We watched them drive away, the gears rattling, the tires wobbling, crates and boxes and pots bouncing along."You don't like them, do you?" I asked."They're good folks. They're just different.""I guess we're lucky to have them, aren't we?""Yes, we are."More field hands meant less cotton for me to pick. For the next month I would go to the fields at sunrise, drape a nine-foot cotton sack over my shoulder, and stare for a moment at an endless row of cotton, the stalks taller than I was, then plunge into them, lost as far as anyone could tell. And I would pick cotton, tearing the fluffy bolls from the stalks at a steady pace, stuffing them into the heavy sack, afraid to look down the row and be reminded of how endless it was, afraid to slow down because someone would notice. My fingers would bleed, my neck would burn, my back would hurt.Yes, I wanted lots of help in the fields. Lots of hill people, lots of Mexicans.

Bookclub Guide

Beautifully evoking an extraordinary time and place, A PAINTED HOUSE has captivated millions of readers. Depicting aspects of family, community, trust, and faith through the eyes of a charming little boy, the book makes a memorable choice for reading groups. The questions, discussion topics, and author biography that follow are intended to enhance your reading of John Grisham’s A PAINTED HOUSE. We hope they will enrich your experience of this enduring novel.US

Editorial Reviews

“John Grisham is about as good a storyteller as we’ve got.”—The New York Times Book Review“The kind of book you read slowly because you don’t want it to end ... John Grisham takes command of this literary category just as forcefully as he did legal thrillers with The Firm.... Never let it be said this man doesn’t know how to spin a good yarn.”—Entertainment Weekly“Characters that no reader will forget. .. prose as clean and strong as any Grisham has yet laid down ... and a drop-dead evocation of a time and place that mark this novel as a classic slice of Americana.”—Publishers Weekly“Some of the finest dialogue of his career ... Every detail rings clear and true, and nothing is wasted.”—Seattle TimesRead all of John Grisham’s #1 New York Times bestsellers:The BrethrenThe TestamentThe Street LawyerThe PartnerThe Runaway JuryThe RainmakerThe ChamberThe ClientThe Pelican BriefThe FirmA Time to KillAvailable from DellComing soon!The SummonsThe new novel by John GrishamAvailable from DoubledayFrom the Paperback edition.

Employee Review

In his twelfth novel, Grisham forgoes the thriller genre in favor of a semi-autobiographical coming-of-age novel set in 1952 Arkansas. The narrator is Luke Chandler, the seven-year-old only child of cotton farmers. In order to harvest their cotton, the Chandlers are forced to hire a hillbilly family and Mexican migrant workers. If you think this plot sounds too bucolic to sustain interest over 388 pages, you're wrong. Grisham manages to work in floods, tornadoes, an illegitimate birth and a couple of gruesome murders. Surprisingly well done and a refreshing change of pace. A sequel, please!