Pros and Cons

  • Accurate depiction of some Southerners views.
  • Intriguing story makes the reader feel emotion.
  • Racial language gets rough at times.

A Time to Kill (John Grisham)

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The first novel by the legendary John Grisham delves into the racial tumult in the South while pulling at the heart-strings and questioning the law against morals.



John Grisham was just starting out in the world of writing. He was tired of law, but not tired of talking about it and decided to write stories based on the technicalities of it. The child of that decision was his 1st novel, A Time to Kill.

is set in rural Mississippi in the mid-1980's and focuses on a young attorney named Jake Brigance. Jake is a small-time lawyer that is doing quite well for himself, as one could tell from his new Saab or his mansion in Clanton, Mississippi. ATK opens with a young, African-American girl being raped by two white teenage boys. The boys rape, beat, and humiliate the girl for hours, but finally they are picked up by the sherriff and are set for trial. No one imagined that the little girl's father, Carl Lee Haley, would seek retribution. Haley finds an old 'Nam buddy who sets him up with an M16 which Carl Lee uses to completely slaughter the boys in the courthouse. Now, Carl Lee comes to his longtime friend, Jake Brigance, in order to try and save him from the Mississippi gas chamber.

Grisham sets this novel up from the very beginning to be a complete roller-coaster ride. Just from reading the preface, it sends chills up my spine and manages to pique my interest quite well. Grisham puts you in the shoes of Jake and Carl Lee; you feel like you must help save Carl Lee, somehow. Everyone knows that the law is the law, but everyone also knows that what is right is right. Put yourself in Carl Lee's position, what would you do? Would you let the boys get away with such a heinous crime, as they surely would have in the rural South at that time, or do you take the law into your own hands and avenge the ones you love?

Law vs. Feelings.

Which side wins? Law is based on morals. Feelings are usually based on morals as well. What happens when these two entities clash? Find out in A Time to Kill.

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