Mississippi - the US state made famous by movies like 'Mississippi Burning' and 'A Time to Kill' - is the location for John Grisham's collection of short stories. 'A Time to Kill' is of course his own novel and a brilliant treatise on segregation and racism rampant in that area. For us non-Americans the horrors of racism against blacks, the philosophy of the KKK and the terrors that the blacks had to endure during those years is gleaned from novels and movies like these. John Grisham himself accepts that he wanted to return to the places and people from 'A Time to Kill' and talk about them.
So as I pick up the book at the store I half expect to read stories again on racism, on segregation and atrocities on blacks at the hands of the whites. The book pleasantly surprises you by the absolute lack of that. 'Ford County Stories' is not about rehashing what happened in 'A Time to Kill' but about the people who stay there and their daily lives. From your past 'experience' of the area you do expect the people to be boorish, crass, temperamental, angry and gun toting extremists. Some stories validate these characteristics while some very beautifully bring out the basic human nature that you would find anywhere in the world.
A group of youngsters decide to go on a journey to donate blood to one of their town guys and get sidetracked by gang fights, sleaze and sex and land up in jail - a poignant story on how one can loose track of the aim and objectives.
story about hope that a convicted death row prisoner keeps giving his family till the last moment and how his family seems to be relieved when the inevitable finally happens.
A vendetta by a low key guy who discovers that he can manipulate casinos and how he destroys a casino to get his wife back. A wonderful story on skills used well.
A dead beat lawyer hits jackpot with an old litigation and how he manipulates things to start a new life. A story on how some things help to start a new life.
A lawyer comes face to face with an old case where he was responsible for wrong justice and gets a time bound life sentence. Things will always come back to haunt you.
But my best story is really of a white boy coming back home with AIDS, how he is sent to stay in the blacks portion of the town where he finds more love and acceptance by the lady of the house than he found even in his own family. The short story selection end on this beautiful note about human relations.
Its not vintage Grisham. Its not all about lawyers and cases. Its not about blacks and whites. But its a good read on a short flight or when you have nothing to read.
I would rate it 3/5.
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