Grisham, John. A Painted House. New York: Doubleday, 2000. Print.
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This is my book club pick for our current read. Even though I can't attend discussion night, I wanted to read it, as I haven't ever read any books written by John Grisham. Of course, I took notes as I read, but when I finished, I also wrote down some thoughts and feelings.
I overall enjoyed the storytelling and the humor of the story. I envisioned the place--in fact, I know the place. I feel like I've spent time with my grandparents on their farm (and I'm luck to have felt them with me as I read). My dad is the narrator, Luke (even though my dad has more brothers and a sister). The characters are believable. I did not grow up picking cotton, but I've heard my family talk about it. When I was growing up, my grandparents were not actively farming, but they were still farmers. They had two gardens that we worked. They had to drive to town to buy anything and attend church. These were special times when we got to tag along. I've sat on the porch to wind down the day, discussing everything in life and nothing at all. Shelling peas. Waving to passersby. Learning scripture. Learning about life.
The story takes place during harvest time of 1952. Luke Chandler and his parents (Jesse & Katherine) live with Luke's grandparents on their Arkansas cotton farm. They hire some "hill people" and Mexicans to help harvest the cotton. Having these two groups stay on the farm creates some varying & intertwines story lines. I predicted one major event between "Cowboy" and Tally. However, the nearby Latcher family provided an unexpected twist to the story. Actually, there were two twists involving the Latcher's.
Seven year old Luke knows he does not want to be a cotton farmer. He knows the more people helping means less cotton he has to pick. He's happy for the help.
I thought the distinctions between the Baptists and the Methodists was humorous and sometimes truthful. When the migrant workers arrive, some of the townspeople are livid of the conditions the workers faced to get there. Luke explains, "I could tell Pearl couldn't wait for us to clear out so she could find her church friends and again stir up the issue. Pearl was a Methodist" (Grisham 17). Yep, Methodists are into fair conditions for people. "Most things were sinful in rural Arkansas, especially if you were a Baptist. As a general rule, the merchants and school teachers worshipped there [Methodist church]. The Methodists thought they were slightly superior, but as Baptists, we knew we had the inside track to God" (Grisham 83). HA!
The title reference starts on page 21. Luke's mom was "almost a town girl" and was "raised in a painted house" (Grisham 21). The distinction of the painted house is important. By having a painted house, you have the expendable income that most cotton farmers didn't enjoy. This theme of the painted house continues when Trot, one of the hill people, begins to paint the Chandler house. It is an extravagance that turns out to be accepted, including from Pappy Eli.
When I finished the book, I literally cried. I didn't cry for the events of the story, but I cried for the memories of my grandparents. I've passed this book on to my dad. It may be too close to home for him to like as much as me.