Sunday, December 10, 2006

A Time to Kill

by John Grisham

I'm tempted to think that this one is about truth, justice and the American Way gone wrong. The story is set in Mississippi and opens with the account of a ten-year-old girl, Tonya, being raped by two men. They abuse her, try to kill her but end up abandoning her to die in a ravine. She is found, taken to the hospital and, eventually, the two men are arrested. The wheels of justice begin to turn, but Tonya's father, Carl Lee, decides to take matters into his own hands and guns down the rapists as they are being led from the courthouse back to jail. The book then deals with the attempts of Carl Lee's lawyer to get him acquitted. Since Carl Lee is black and the rapists where white, the trial ignites all sorts of reactions in the community as justice, prejudice and the law collide. It's not a pretty picture, but it's a thought provoking tale. There's no clear ideals in the book, no truly heroic people. While the lead character, lawyer Jake Brigance, is a good guy, he's not above lying or manipulation to get Carl Lee acquitted. Carl Lee, of course, is as guilty as can be, though you tend to sympathize with him and can fully understand his motivation. I suppose you could say that it truly does depict the American Way--nothing is pure, everything is tainted by evil. I was on one jury myself and, while the case was nothing as remotely important as this one, we, too, brought our prejudices and private concerns into the jury room. I left that trial, like I left this book, feeling that the verdict wasn't perfect, but I guess it was the best we could do. Anyway, this is definitely a book worth checking out.
LibraryThing link

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