Ford County by John Grisham

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Ford County by John Grisham

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Category: Short Stories
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Ruth Ng
Reviewed by Ruth Ng
Summary: A rather mixed collection of short stories set in the Deep South. Some work really well, but others left me yawning.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 352 Date: May 2010
Publisher: Arrow Books Ltd
ISBN: 978-0099545781

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When I think of John Grisham I tend to think firstly of lawyers. Well, actually, I think of Tom Cruise first to be honest, and then the whole lawyer thing. I expect surprising twists and long, detailed plots. This collection, however, is a book of short stories so has to work differently. There isn't room within a short story for a lengthy, twisting plot, and so Grisham has to rely on other skills to make them work. My feeling was that some do and some don't. Set in America's Deep South all the stories revolve around a rather mixed bag of characters from Ford County, with the ever-present lawyers but also gamblers, murderers, con artists, drunks and scoundrels.

I think the best thing about all of the stories was the characterisation. Grisham excels at creating believable (though frequently not at all likeable) characters, and within a short story this ability is especially important. I found some of the first stories in the book a little slow-going, with lots of details as to who was doing what and coming, and going, and driving, and drinking... Further into the book, however, the characters become more interesting, so you invest more of yourself in the story.

The subject matter varies from story to story. There are almost always legal issues of some sort, but they're not always key to the plot. There's a murderer on death row who is in denial about his impending execution and spends his time manipulating his family. There's a hardworking, miserable small town lawyer who is looking for a big payout on a case so he can run away. Or there's the road-trip story, when a local man is injured and rushed to hospital and there's a call for blood donors to go to the city hospital to help which leads to three men going on a rather unusual, and very eventful, trip.

One story called Michael's Room is about a family who kidnap the lawyer who fought them in court over their insurance money for their brain damaged son. I felt like I should have been more moved by this story than I was. There just felt like there was some emotional depth lacking somehow. Things improved with the next story, Quiet Haven, which kept me guessing as to the outcome. My favourite, however, was the very last story in the book, Funny Boy, and really it's because of the last couple of stories that I bumped my review from three and a half stars up to four. Funny Boy goes back to the time when little was known about AIDS, and fear was the ruling factor of the day. It deals movingly with a young man who comes back to his home town to die and, cast out by his family because of his homosexuality, he moves into the black area of the town, on the other side of the tracks, to live with an elderly spinster, Emporia. I liked the mix of humour and tragedy in the story; all the small town gossips who string together rumours to pass along, the burgeoning friendship between Adrian and Emporia, and the blind fear of the town's population that Adrian will somehow infect them all with AIDS that leads to him being a total recluse in his final days.

I didn't find this book to be exciting, or a page-turner. It was rather slow and pedestrian for the most part, but the interesting characters make it worth a read, and Grisham fans will probably be glad to have something new of his to read.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

You might like to try some of Grisham's full length novels or for more court room drama try Plea of Insanity by Jilliane Hoffman.

Buy Ford County by John Grisham at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Ford County by John Grisham at

Buy Ford County by John Grisham at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Ford County by John Grisham at


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