A Painted House

A Painted House

by John Grisham

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Overview

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780345532046
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 02/28/2012
Pages: 480
Sales rank: 24,998
Product dimensions: 4.22(w) x 7.74(h) x 1.16(d)

About the Author

John Grisham lives with his family in Virginia and Mississippi. His previous novels are A Time to Kill, The Firm, The Pelican Brief, The Client, The Chamber, The Rainmaker, The Runaway Jury, The Partner, The Street Lawyer, and The Testament.

Hometown:

Oxford, Mississippi, and Albemarle County, Virginia

Date of Birth:

February 8, 1955

Place of Birth:

Jonesboro, Arkansas

Education:

B.S., Mississippi State, 1977; J.D., University of Mississippi, 1981

Read an Excerpt

Chapter I

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."

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.

Copyright © 2001 by Belfry Holdings, Inc.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“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 Times

Read all of John Grisham’s #1 New York Times bestsellers:

The Brethren The Testament The Street Lawyer The Partner The Runaway Jury The Rainmaker The Chamber The Client The Pelican Brief The Firm A Time to Kill

Available from Dell

Coming soon!

The Summons

The new novel by John Grisham

Available from Doubleday

Reading Group 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.

1. Luke Chandler is exposed to events that many adults have never even seen. What is the effect of reading about these circumstances—from a difficult childbirth to the possibility of financial ruin—through the eyes of a seven-year-old narrator?

2. The Chandlers cannot afford some of the hallmarks of the1950s American dream, such as a television set or a stylish-looking car. Yet other aspects of that time period, such as the Korean War, make an unmistakable impression on them. How does the Chandler household measure up to your own memories or impressions of that era?

3. Several generations of women are presented in A PAINTED HOUSE, including Gran, Luke's mother, and Tally. How do contemporary women compare to those three characters?

4. Baseball is a central theme in the novel, providing Luke with heroes, dreams, and a diversion from the exhaustion of picking cotton. When the Arkansans challenge the Mexicans to a baseball game, however, Luke sees a darker side to competition. In what way does this scene foreshadow the conclusion of the novel?

5. How might the novel have been different if Luke's father or mother had narrated it?

6. How does your opinion of Cowboy change throughout thenovel? What do you think attracts Tally to him? How did you react to his final showdown with Hank?

7. Discuss the role of Ricky in A PAINTED HOUSE. Though we never meet him directly, he does play a key part in the progress of the plot. What is the effect of his absence, and the letter writing it inspires? In what way does his experience differ from that of modern soldiers?

8. What keeps Pappy from giving up on farming?

9. What role do the Methodist and Baptist churches play in the Black Oak community? How well do religious teachings serve Luke during 1952?

10. In what way is Black Oak a snapshot of the world at large?

11. Luke says that most members of his community are descended from Scotch-Irish immigrants. What are some of the legacies of this ancestry?

12. The weather is a powerful force in A PAINTED HOUSE; floods, heat, hail, and tornadoes all add suspense to the novel. What is it like for the Chandlers to live at the complete mercy of the weather? How is their situation different from that of the cousins who perform indoor industrial work up north? What are the costs and benefits of relying on the natural world for your livelihood?

13. At the end of the novel, Luke and his parents become migrant workers themselves, venturing off to a new part of the country solely for employment opportunities. Twenty-first-century workers are often asked to transfer to a new part of the globe in order to further their careers. What is the best way to make decisions between financial security and family or cultural ties?

14. Poverty is a highly relative concept in A PAINTED HOUSE. Though they have no indoor plumbing and have perilously high debts, the Chandlers nonetheless give generously to those in need. How do you define 'rich' and 'poor'?

15. The Chandler house itself conveys a meaningful message. What is the significance of the way in which it gets painted? Do you believe that Pappy really does finish the job after Luke and his family leave? What is the effect of that detail? What causes Luke to set aside his dream of ordering a Cardinals jacket and instead use his meager earnings to buy paint?

16. In terms of plot and writing style, are any elements of John Grisham's legal thrillers evident in A PAINTED HOUSE?

17. Discuss your own coming-of-age story. What are your first memories of home? Who were the first people you loved?

18. A PAINTED HOUSE ends with tantalizing possibilities. Speculate about how Luke's life unfolds after his family leaves the Arkansas Delta.

Interviews

A Letter from John Grisham

Dear Friends:

A Painted House is not a legal thriller. In fact, there is not a single lawyer, dead or alive, in this story. Nor are there judges, trials, courtrooms, conspiracies or nagging social issues.

A Painted House is a work of fiction. It was inspired by my childhood in rural Arkansas. The setting is reasonably accurate, though historical accuracy should not be taken too seriously. One or two of these characters may actually have lived and breathed on this earth, though I know them only through family lore, which in my family is a most unreliable source. One or two of these events may indeed have taken place, though I've heard so many different versions of these events that I believe none of them myself.

Sincerely,

John Grisham

Foreword

1. Luke Chandler is exposed to events that many adults have never even seen. What is the effect of reading about these circumstances—from a difficult childbirth to the possibility of financial ruin—through the eyes of a seven-year-old narrator?

2. The Chandlers cannot afford some of the hallmarks of the1950s American dream, such as a television set or a stylish-looking car. Yet other aspects of that time period, such as the Korean War, make an unmistakable impression on them. How does the Chandler household measure up to your own memories or impressions of that era?

3. Several generations of women are presented in A PAINTED HOUSE, including Gran, Luke’s mother, and Tally. How do contemporary women compare to those three characters?

4. Baseball is a central theme in the novel, providing Luke with heroes, dreams, and a diversion from the exhaustion of picking cotton. When the Arkansans challenge the Mexicans to a baseball game, however, Luke sees a darker side to competition. In what way does this scene foreshadow the conclusion of the novel?

5. How might the novel have been different if Luke’s father or mother had narrated it?

6. How does your opinion of Cowboy change throughout the novel? What do you think attracts Tally to him? How did you react to his final showdown with Hank?

7. Discuss the role of Ricky in A PAINTED HOUSE. Though we never meet him directly, he does play a key part in the progress of the plot. What is the effect of his absence, and the letter writing it inspires? In what way does his experience differ from that of modern soldiers?

8. What keeps Pappy from giving up on farming?

9. What roledo the Methodist and Baptist churches play in the Black Oak community? How well do religious teachings serve Luke during 1952?

10. In what way is Black Oak a snapshot of the world at large?

11. Luke says that most members of his community are descended from Scotch-Irish immigrants. What are some of the legacies of this ancestry?

12. The weather is a powerful force in A PAINTED HOUSE; floods, heat, hail, and tornadoes all add suspense to the novel. What is it like for the Chandlers to live at the complete mercy of the weather? How is their situation different from that of the cousins who perform indoor industrial work up north? What are the costs and benefits of relying on the natural world for your livelihood?

13. At the end of the novel, Luke and his parents become migrant workers themselves, venturing off to a new part of the country solely for employment opportunities. Twenty-first-century workers are often asked to transfer to a new part of the globe in order to further their careers. What is the best way to make decisions between financial security and family or cultural ties?

14. Poverty is a highly relative concept in A PAINTED HOUSE. Though they have no indoor plumbing and have perilously high debts, the Chandlers nonetheless give generously to those in need. How do you define “rich” and “poor”?

15. The Chandler house itself conveys a meaningful message. What is the significance of the way in which it gets painted? Do you believe that Pappy really does finish the job after Luke and his family leave? What is the effect of that detail? What causes Luke to set aside his dream of ordering a Cardinals jacket and instead use his meager earnings to buy paint?

16. In terms of plot and writing style, are any elements of John Grisham’s legal thrillers evident in A PAINTED HOUSE?

17. Discuss your own coming-of-age story. What are your first memories of home? Who were the first people you loved?

18. A PAINTED HOUSE ends with tantalizing possibilities. Speculate about how Luke’s life unfolds after his family leaves the Arkansas Delta.

Customer Reviews

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A Painted House 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 580 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I personally loved this book and thought that it was very well written. I couldn't put it down and I felt that it was exciting to the last page. I hope that John Grisham makes a sequal because I am very anxious to read the continuation of this story.
Guest More than 1 year ago
When I borrowed this book during a free period in sixth grade from a friend, I never thought it would soon become one of my favorite books. It held my eleven year old attention through to the end, and now a junior, I reread it regularly.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not as good as his legal mysteries. The story was well told, but I could not get into this book as much as I did his others. I look forward to his legal mysteries.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I always enjoy a Grifsham book. This was a great book to get away from the lawyer like stuff he normally writes. I wasnt able to put this one down!
Guest More than 1 year ago
i had to read this for required reading but it turned out to be a good book! I enjoyed it alot and i found it hard to put down.
Guest More than 1 year ago
i've read all of john grisham's books and loved them all. a painted house was a total waste of time, money, paper and ink. ok, so it was not the usual grisham book but the story was just too boring with too many loose ends. i should've believed those 1- and 2-star reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
U wont like it. It not like what u expect from him if u have read his books. Dont spend ur money on this one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Really good
sanders6 More than 1 year ago
At first I didn't think that I wanted to read this, but Luke is a great charater. One favorite parts is where his cousins new wife Stacy in the outhouse...and another is where Luke, his parents and the secret baby are running (driving) through town ducking Mrs. Pearl...I litterallly laughed out loud at these and a lot of other parts. This is a great story of a little boy tryin' to be good. If you have sons,, grandsons, nephews, you will love this little seven year old boy! I do and will recommend it to all.
Richard-Cory More than 1 year ago
good book... it was left a little open though at the end.... there wasn't much closure... oh and the back of the book is REALLY off topic...
Guest More than 1 year ago
I did like a Painted House. It had a good storyline to it that always kept you interested. Taking place in the 1950's it told a lot about rural life in Arkansas and how people lived. Also the use of hired workers was very interesting. They used migrant workers either from Mexico or the 'Hills' and tried treating them as good as possible. I would recommend the book for others to read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The book was amazing. The book really gives you a good look on what people went through during those time. The book made me think about how good I have it compared to the migrant worker and the kids at the time. The kid didn¿t have a choice but to have farm work before school. I recommend this book for all ages because people really should take the time stop and think about how good the have it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
love john grisham but could not handle this book was always waiting for the story to pick up but never did.....
Guest More than 1 year ago
Have you been looking for a good book to read, and have has the time. But not sure what to read? Check out ¿A Painted House¿ by John Grisham. This book takes place in the early 1950¿s, where farming cotton and picking cotton was popular. It starts out really slow with Pap and Father looking for workers to pick the cotton. Once they get their workers, and start to work suspicious things start to happen. No one knows who is doing it but it is happening and they want to get to the bottom of it. They start out Saturday going to the gin in town to get there cotton weighed, so they can get paid. Everyone who wants to go to town has the choice. In town they do there shopping for the upcoming week. They get all the food and personal items that they need. Then they get to go to a matinee, which if the only way out of the house until the following Saturday. During the week all they do is pick cotton, but not Luke Chandler. He is the main character, the grandson of the owner of the cotton farm. He sometimes has the job of helping his mother in the garden, picking and canning vegetables for the winter. When he is out in the cotton field he likes to try and work as far away from everyone else as possible. That way he does not have to do as much work. He tries to avoid trouble as much as he can. Luke knows things that no one else would know. He finds things out, that he is not supposed to know and does things that he is not suppose to. He knows everything from the suspicious baby, to who murdered Hank. His life is in danger in parts of the book, and he gets threatened for what he does know. But in the end it turns out to be an American dream life, a good one for the 1950¿s. This book was awesome, it does go slow in the beginning and you may not want to finish it once you start it. That is the way that it was for me. But I had to read it for a class and a lot of my classmates that had read it recommended it. I do not regret taking the time at all. It was well worth it. I think that if you like books that when something bad is happening or about to happen and you do not want to put the book down because it is getting so good. So you just want to keep reading. Well after about the first four chapters that is how it is. Starts out slow then speeds up. I would recommend this book to anyone that like a little mystery in his or her reading. But at the same time the book sticks to its main subject. Or another works to anyone. I loved this book and would read it again at any time.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I knew this book would be unlike Grisham's other works but I didn't expect it to be so boring, repetitive and elementary. Told through the eyes of a seven year old, it seemed more as if a child wrote it. Weather, baseball and puritan poverty continues page after page. With each chapter I continued to hope that some interesting would happen. What a true disappointment.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I too followed this in Oxford Magazine. Month by month I could hardly wait for the next issue to reveal the latest chapters. John Grisham once again drew from his excellent ability to draw a reader into the characters and story line. Toward the end I found myself understanding the characters enough to know how they would feel about unfolding events before the story moved there. Any complaint I have would be about the ending, it seemed to abrupt when there was much more fodder to be uncovered. My top four Grisham favs are now, 'A Time to Kill', 'The Firm', 'The Pelican Brief' and now 'A Painted House'.
Jua on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was an audio book. I wanted to get in my car and ride around, just so I could hear the story.
Oogod on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was the first book by Grisham that I have read. Not a bad story but a bit slow at times, the ending did not wrap things up in my opinion.
MsBeautiful on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
mystery, not his best, didn't finish
madamejeanie on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I'm a big fan of Grisham and have read almost all of his works, but Iwasn't too excited about the three that he's written (so far) that move awayfrom his established territory of the legal thriller. Last month I read"Bleachers." This week I finally got around to reading "A Painted House."I bought it in paperback, which is unusual for me and a Grisham book. Iusually buy them hot off the press. This one is a quiet tale, the story of a poor cotton farming family inArkansas in 1952. It is told from the perspective of a 7 year old boy, sonand grandson of the family. It's time to pick the cotton crop and everybodyworks like dogs. The family hires some "hill people," a scruffy familynamed Spruill, and manages to hire 10 Mexican illegals who came into town ona cattle truck. It's late summer and hotter than Hell itself. One of thehill people is a huge hulk of a man with a sour attitude and a chip the sizeof a cinder block on his shoulder, and one of the Mexicans carries aswitchblade and isn't afraid to use it. When the coming autumn bringsunseasonal torrential rain, the entire crop is threatened, and with it,their very way of life.There's tension and tenderness in this book, and Grisham tells the story sowell I felt like I was there. This certainly wasn't his usual work, but itwas a very satisfying read, nonetheless. I hated to see it end. I'd giveit a 4.
readingrat on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is one of a handful where Grisham has departed from his usual courtroom drama genre. I was really impressed with his writing here. This is a richly detailed and enthralling character-driven period tale told from the point of view of a 7 year-old boy during his last cotton harvest on his grandparents' Arkansas farm.
librisissimo on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Substance: Faithful recreation of cotton-farming in Arkansas in the fifties. The narrator is maybe a little young for what he does, at age 7 (9 would be more believable).
cas_ar on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A book that proves John Grisham can write other than law stories. A very good story of living in southern cotton country of the early 1950's.
Carolfoasia on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is only my second Grisham. My husband says that it is different from the rest of his. He is a good story teller, and the first person narrative from a seven year old was really interesting. Good story. I listened to an audio version.
alisonb60 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
As someone else said, this book reminded me of To Kill a Mockingbird. I did enjoy the characters, and yes it is different from any other Grisham book, so it shows how versatile he is as a writer. It didn't finish properly though.