I'm going to try not to sound like a drooling, screaming fangirl while I write this review but OH MY GAH. There is a reason I wait (not so) patiently between Grisham books. It's because just about every release is so. good. Sycamore Row was in no way a disappointment and I think this is the first time I have given a Grisham book five stars.
I will admit to not reading the first novel. I have it, but I saw the film first many years ago and just recently decided I wanted to read it. A sign that a book is good, for me, is if it plays out like scenes from a movie in my head... if I can feel the oppressive Mississippi heat, hear the gossip and murmurings at The Coffee Shop, feel the tension in the dialog and the well planned pauses in the story. If I can't see the movie in my head, the book isn't going to work for me. Fortunately I had the reel of the adaptation of Time to Kill to fall back on, so it was easy to fill in the voices and faces of Jake, Rufus, Harry Rex, Lucian and Ozzie. I always have fun mentally casting the rest of the characters.
What I liked about this book was, of course, so many twisty stories that all rope together into one big story-- Seth Hubbard, a rich man who committed suicide and left his fortune not to his children, grandchildren and ex wives but to his black maid. Seth's children are greedy and ungrateful, unfeeling and only concerned about their inheritance as they go through the motions of burying their father. Lettie, once an orphan adopted by a kind family, struggles with her abusive, semi employed husband and house full of freeloaders. And since her employer, Mr. Hubbard has just killed himself, she's out of a job.
Enter Mr. Brigance, now famous lawyer from the Carl Lee Haley trial. Sycamore Row picks up three years after Carl Lee is acquitted. The home he and Carla put their blood, sweat and tears into is burned beyond salvation by the KKK, and the insurance company still hasn't paid. They're renting a poor excuse for a home, and Jake's popularity is worth more than his bank account. He's teetering on the edge of bankruptcy when he receives a letter and hand written will from the now deceased Seth Hubbard.
Seth spells out his wishes plainly. His children get nothing. Make them suffer.
I commented before that I have never laughed aloud with glee at a Grisham book and it's true. I wanted Hershel and Ramona to suffer greatly; for Rufus Buckley to be tossed out on his behind and for Jake Brigance to win, and win mightily. I also wanted Simeon (Lettie's husband) to die, but we can't always get what we want.
A few things were 'convenient' but not annoyingly so. We also never find out how Seth knew what he knew, thus prompting him to change his will and leave his money to Lettie. And where did Lucian get off to???
I recently watched an interview with Mr. Grisham in which he explains that his wife was the one responsible for his return to Ford County. If she doesn't like it, it doesn't get written. Thank you, Mrs. Grisham. This is a fantastic novel.
Let's do it again. October 2014?