Aug 9, 2011

Elephants & Confessions

Book review time!

In my mind, a relaxing vacation means I read at least one book. And Canada was very relaxing so I read 1.5 books.

First, on the flight there I finished Water for Elephants. The book stars Jacob, a Cornell veterinary student whose parents are suddenly killed in his last semester of school. In his grief, he drops out and runs away with the circus...unintentionally but nonetheless. It's a B rate outfit he finds himself with and they are more than happy to have an almost-vet to care for the animals. Needless to say, the circus characters are quite colorful and range from a crazed equestrian director and a lady of ill-repute to a hard-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside dwarf and a beautiful horse performer. Alternately told from the perspective of young Jacob living with the circus and the perspective of old 90-ish Jacob living in a nursing home, the story is sweet and charming, if somewhat predictable. But being a sucker for a corniness and love stories, I enjoyed it. Verdict: read it.

Then I read The Confession by John Grisham. I should tell you, Grisham and I have a love-hate relationship. On the one hand, I love his suspenseful, Southern law dramas. Addicting. On the other, well they are all suspenseful, Southern law dramas. And they all have a philanderer and most have racial tension. They say to write about what you know...I know Grisham is a southern lawyer and heck, maybe marriage isn't his strong suit. Anyways I've started to have to put months, sometimes  years, between his books or they just run together. It had been easily a year though since my last one so I was ready for The Confession (and it was on my 2011 reading list).

So The Confession: nearly 10 years ago east Texas high school cheerleader Nicole went missing and eventually was assumed dead, despite the lack of a body. A bogus tip leads the authorities to Donte, a black star football player accused of sleeping with Nicole (who is white) and ultimately murdering her. Donte is found guilty by an all white jury and sentenced to death. Fast forward to present day and Rev. Keith in Kansas is visited by an ex-con claiming a need to confess. The next thing you know, the ex-con, Travis, and Keith are racing down the interstate to Texas for a whopper of a confession and hoping to stop an execution. What Grisham does almost too well here is Travis the ex-con. The way Travis leers at Keith's wife...well I'm glad I wasn't reading it at home alone. It was enough to give you the serious creeps.

The elements written about Donte and his family suffering through his sentence are gripping. If you are against the death penalty, this is a rally cry. If you support the death penalty, you will be forced to confront your belief head on.

And on an odd note, right as we started flying over Texas toward Austin, I finished the book which ended in Austin. Book and reader, same destination.

Verdict: read it but only if it's been 6 months since your last Grisham.

Now I'm reading Safe Haven by Nicolas Sparks. He's not one of my usual authors but I like variation in my reading and I figure Sparks and Grisham are about as night and day as two contemporaries can be.

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