The Reckoning by John Grisham
Genres: Adult, Fiction, Historical, Mystery
Format: Hardcover, eBook
Read in: April 2019
Reading Challenges: 2019 GoodReads
Source: Public Library
Add to: Goodreads
October 1946, Clanton, Mississippi
Pete Banning was Clanton, Mississippi's favorite son--a decorated World War II hero, the patriarch of a prominent family, a farmer, father, neighbor, and a faithful member of the Methodist church. Then one cool October morning he rose early, drove into town, walked into the church, and calmly shot and killed his pastor and friend, the Reverend Dexter Bell. As if the murder weren't shocking enough, it was even more baffling that Pete's only statement about it--to the sheriff, to his lawyers, to the judge, to the jury, and to his family--was: "I have nothing to say." He was not afraid of death and was willing to take his motive to the grave.
In a major novel unlike anything he has written before, John Grisham takes us on an incredible journey, from the Jim Crow South to the jungles of the Philippines during World War II; from an insane asylum filled with secrets to the Clanton courtroom where Pete's defense attorney tries desperately to save him.
I honestly don’t know how I feel about The Reckoning by John Grisham. It was depressing for sure. The mystery kept me going but there reached a point where I almost didn’t care anymore, I just wanted to finish the book.
First of all, none of the characters are really all that likeable. I definitely admired Pete Banning for the amazing things that he did during World War II (of course, this is fiction but I’m sure someone somewhere did the things that he did). The thing is though he isn’t relatable or really all that nice. He doesn’t talk a lot but he is fair. Jackie Bell as the flipping widow isn’t even likable. Do you know how hard you have to work to make me not like someone who was wronged?! Pretty effing hard John Grisham.
Neither of Pete’s children are very likable either. I feel awful for what they had to go through but it didn’t make me support them any more either. There just wasn’t a lot of the characters that I liked and I’m really a character driven reader. To be honest, I don’t know why I made myself read it. It was interesting but not very good. I really hope that makes sense.
The pacing of the book really set me on edge as well. All the action pertinent to the story we’re reading happens in the first third of the book.
The second third is largely spent explaining things that happened during the war to Pete and his homecoming. I found it all interesting but it really felt like stepping out of fiction (the first third) into non-fiction (the second third) explaining the hell that soldiers went through during the Battle of Bataan. It wasn’t pretty. At. All. It held my attention because it was something I didn’t know about WWII but it felt out of place in a fiction about a man who killed a Methodist pastor. In hindsight the amount of intense detail that Grisham went into honestly didn’t have anything to do with the story in Mississippi.
Then during the last third we stepped back into fiction again. This is when we finally learn what the hell had been going on. While I can appreciate the twist it just wasn’t enough of a pay off.
If I had to do it over again I would look for a review full of spoilers and skip the 400+ pages of this book. I’ll definitely be reading John Grisham again, but The Reckoning just wasn’t for me.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
- 2019 GoodReads