Book Review: Ford County, Stories by John Grisham

Ford County
Stories by John Grisham 
Doubleday
2009
308 pages 


Oh, I hear you.  I know what you’re thinking.  John Grisham?!  What the hell, Melissa, did you fall into a time capsule from 1991?

Yes, this would be the same John Grisham of bestselling The Firm and The Pelican Brief fame.  And the Ford County of this short story collection’s title is the same Ford County in which Grisham’s first book, A Time to Kill, is set.

It’s been quite some time (since the early 90s, in fact) since I’ve picked up a John Grisham book, and I suspect that might be the case for you too. But as any of the Southern lawyers within these (and any other of his) pages would do, my job here as a reviewer is to convince you that these stories are just as good as we remember Grisham to be from back in the day.

They really, really are.

I admit, I was a bit skeptical too.  I mean, how many more stories of crooked lawyers and backwoods bumpkins and get-rich-quick schemes could Grisham have left?  As it turns out, at least 7 of them – the ones contained within Ford County.  And these 7 are pretty damn good.

The Flannery O’Connor-esque characters are what you’ll remember most from these stories: wheelchair-bound Inez, who takes a road trip with two of her sons to visit another son on Death Row; everyday ho-hum Sidney, who unleashes a latent gambling prowess to get revenge on his ex-wife (and rich at the same time);  alcoholics who are road trippin’ it to Memphis to donate blood for a friend, but who can’t seem to avoid stopping at every bar along the way; a whistleblower at a retirement home whose motives aren’t the least bit ethical or moral; the night of vengence enacted on a lawyer at the hands of a family that hasn’t forgotten their losing case; and Adrian, who comes home to Ford County to die of AIDS and finally finds peace.

As much as I liked these stories, I’ll admit that Ford County might not have been one that I would have picked up on my own.  It was a Christmas present from my mother in 2009, and it has been sitting on the TBR shelf ever since.  But I happened to spot the audiobook in the library and I listened to the first two stories – and really, really liked them. When I went through three DNFs during one week, I thought I could get some sense of accomplishment by knocking off a TBR book, and I also wanted some semblance of a comfort read.  When I spotted this on the shelf, I realized that I only had five stories left in this one, so … there you go.

(I liked the two stories that I listened to on audio, and would recommend that, particularly for a road trip since there are a few road trips featured within this collection. Grisham’s narration is okay, but the stories are suspenseful enough to keep your attention.)

I’m not saying this is an absolute, OMG-you-gotta-read-this-immediately type of book. Rather, this is one that is worth taking a second look at if you are thinking (as I was) that you’re beyond the likes of Grisham and not interested in his brand anymore.  These stories are ones that are surprising, perhaps especially so in how much you just might be surprised to find yourself enjoying them.

 

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