Before I reveal my choice to this statement, let me clarify something. On another post entitled Ennui with a Side of Envy, I said that I envied a playwright but the truth of the matter is that I am not a person given to envy. To me envy is a waste of time and emotional effort.
Growing up nearly as poor as the families depicted in Grisham’s novel, A Painted House, I learned early on that if I wanted anything I would have to work for it, which is why I started working at the age of 14 and I am working still. So, when I say I envy someone for something, I really mean that I would like to have something they have be it material or immaterial. If I see someone with a car I would like to have, I work to get that car and I buy it if I can. If I read someone’s work and I admire it, I try to write the way they do no matter what is needed to accomplish this goal. I am not always successful in these ventures but at least I try.
I have tried several times to be a novelist but I just cannot seem to get the hang of it, so I write short stories, which is something that I am very good at, while I admire Grisham’s ability to write novels. The reason I admire him for this, and why I own all of his books, is because a good novel has many layers to it. None of his novels, or many thousands of others that I have read have the layers that are incorporated in his very best book, The Last Juror.
This book has a trial that revolves around a spectacular murder, as you would expect in a Grisham novel. It has a decadent crime family in it, a cast of characters with colorful name like Baggy Suggs, Mackey Don Coley, Harry Rex Vonner etc., and it takes on people who go “slap ass crazy”, the war in Viet Nam and forced integration of schools. So there is a lot to think about but the truth is that the book is not about any of these subjects.
These are just many of the layers that revolve around the real story depicted in the book and that is of the friendship that grows between Willie Traynor and a very special black family living in Lowtown (on the other side of the tracks), the Ruffins headed by a wonderful matriarch named Calia “Miss Callie” Harris Ruffin. How this unlikely friendship came about is the gist of the book and it is wonderful. All the layers around the main story just make it that much better. If you have not read the book, go get a copy and read it now.
I love the work so much that I buy copies of the book to give away to others. So far, I have given out 21 copies of the novel. I can usually get these copies for a few dollars at a local library’s bookstore so it is not a financial burden to me but even if the books cost much more than I pay now, I would do it because it is a very special book.
A few select books that I have read in the past fall into this category. Those books include, The Sirens of Titan and Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut, The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, and the Merlin Trilogy (The Crystal Cave, The Hollow Hills, The Last Enchantment) by Mary Stewart–just to name a few.
I suggest you read them all.