“Sycamore Row” by John Grisham

Dell Mass Market, 2014

Yes, it has been quite a while since I posted my last book review. My primary excuse is that I have been busy traveling over 10,000 miles. But John Grisham deserves a share of the blame, too. Sycamore Row is long (637 pages in this edition) and it moves slowly.  It took me a month to get to the point where it grabbed me at all.

The story is that of a terminally ill white man who hangs himself.  But before committing suicide he wrote, in longhand, a 1-page will leaving 90% of his estate to his black housekeeper.  He also wrote 2 pages of instructions to the lawyer of his choice – a local guy named Jake Brigance – in which he stated, in no uncertain terms, that he did not want either of his children to get a penny and that he wanted his holographic will defended at all costs, knowing that it would be challenged.

There was no question why he would want to disown his children – they were unlikable and were not close to him, even as he spiraled downhill to his death.  The real question was why did he leave most of it to a housekeeper that he had known for only 3 years.  And that, folks, it mostly what those 600+ pages are about, along with the courtroom circus that ensued.  Because the estate was valued at over $24 million, an inheritance that would make the housekeeper not only the richest black person in the county, but one of the richest persons of any race in the county.

I won’t spoil it for you and the answer is, indeed, a little surprising.  But I will fault Grisham for taking too long to get to the point.  This would have been a better book if it had been 400 pages.

5 out of 10.

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