February Book Club Pick: Sycamore Row

by - Thursday, March 06, 2014

The book pick for the Fish Tales Book Club in February was Sycamore Row a novel by the famous John Grisham. I will admit it...this was my first JG book! I know right, I have lived in Mississippi for almost four years, I should be ashamed. John Grisham, although originally from Arkansas, attended Mississippi State University where he received his Bachelors degree in accounting. He did go on to to receive his law degree from Ole Miss and practiced law for 10 years before he was elected as a member of the State House of Representatives. During that time he heard a horrifying testimony of a 12 year old rape victim which inspired him to being writing and thus began his wildly popular career. Here at Mississippi State there is a John Grisham Room in the library dedicated to his works and some of his manuscripts are even housed there.

Sycamore Row was chosen for the club so all of us were quite excited to dive into the book which is based in the fictional town of Clanton, MS. If that sounds familiar then you have probably read Grisham's novel A Time To Kill which is the precursor to Sycamore Row. Our pick is actually a sequel which I was hesitant about but I will say that I only felt lost a few times since the author did bring up happenings from the first book that I had no idea about. However, most of the references to ATTK were explained enough to make me as a reader aware of why the author was in fact referencing the previous book.

Here is a little synopsis of the book. It is centered around a man named Seth Hubbard. A very wealthy man who at the beginning of the book is dying of lung cancer. He is a recluse and doesn't have very many friends and his family is not in the picture at all. He decides to end his life and therefore his suffering but before he does he writes out a will, thus denying a previous one, leaving 90% of his massive fortune to his black housekeeper Lettie Lang. He shuns his children and his grandchildren in this new will and by doing so turns the town upside down as everyone wants to know why and exactly how much money this old man was worth. Before he hangs himself, from one of his own sycamore trees, he sends the new will and a letter to Jake Brigance(the lawyer in ATTK) sharing his final requests. The book twists and turns as you find out why Seth Hubbard made those last decisions and  what ultimately leads to a revelation that brings all of his actions to light!

Let's keep moving. This book is a behemoth, clocking in at almost 500 pages I think it is pushing the boundaries for a book club pick as some of the members did not even finish it and I was up late last night finishing it myself so I could be prepared for the meeting tonight. I wouldn't say it was a boring read at all...it was very well written and the characters were described so well they felt like they jumped off the page and came to life. The biggest issue I had was leading up the trial. I read the Kindle edition and the trial started when I was 80% done with the book. The first 80% was detail. Granted it was good detail but I was thinking wow when is this ever going to get to the good parts. Also the climax/denouement was so incredibly short that I felt like I was cheated since it took around 400 pages to get there! I will say that JG keeps the legal jargon to a minimum so you don't need a law degree to keep up! I loved most of the main characters even though there were a lot of names to remember. I caught myself having to refer back to remember who certain characters were and why they were doing what they were. The ending wraps up very nicely but like I said the denouement/resolution was so very quick you shouldn't blink or you'll miss it! Overall, I would say that it was a good book that was concise and thought provoking.

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