Sycamore Row: A Novel (Jake Brigance)
by John Grisham

Published: 2013-10-22
Kindle Edition : 466 pages
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John Grisham takes you back to where it all began . . .

John Grisham's A Time to Kill is one of the most popular novels of our time. Now we return to that famous courthouse in Clanton as Jake Brigance once again finds himself embroiled in a fiercely controversial trial-a trial that will ...
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John Grisham takes you back to where it all began . . .

John Grisham's A Time to Kill is one of the most popular novels of our time. Now we return to that famous courthouse in Clanton as Jake Brigance once again finds himself embroiled in a fiercely controversial trial-a trial that will expose old racial tensions and force Ford County to confront its tortured history.

Seth Hubbard is a wealthy man dying of lung cancer. He trusts no one. Before he hangs himself from a sycamore tree, Hubbard leaves a new, handwritten, will. It is an act that drags his adult children, his black maid, and Jake into a conflict as riveting and dramatic as the murder trial that made Brigance one of Ford County's most notorious citizens, just three years earlier.

The second will raises far more questions than it answers. Why would Hubbard leave nearly all of his fortune to his maid? Had chemotherapy and painkillers affected his ability to think clearly? And what does it all have to do with a piece of land once known as Sycamore Row?

In Sycamore Row, John Grisham returns to the setting and the compelling characters that first established him as America's favorite storyteller. Here, in his most assured and thrilling novel yet, is a powerful testament to the fact that Grisham remains the master of the legal thriller, nearly twenty-five years after the publication of A Time to Kill.

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Discussion Questions

1. We know the setting of Sycamore Row is Clanton, Mississippi, 3 years after Carl Lee Bailey is found innocent in the murder of the two men who have raped his daughter. The year is 1989. If you read or saw the novel/movie, have race relations among the townspeople changed or remain the same in this novel. Examples?

2. Jake Brigance, (Of course, all we can picture is Mathew Mc Conaughy!) young and smart, has gained a great measure of respectability among the townspeople for his defense of Carl Lee. In this novel, what qualities and characteristics does Jake have that make him a memorable and noteworthy character, resident of Clanton, and lawyer? Examples?

3. In Sycamore Row, there are many references to all that Jake and his wife Carla have lost in his defense of Hailey. Do these issues make Jake more heroic or weaker in this novel? How do these issues resolve themselves in this novel?

4. What would be the stylistic purpose for Chapter One to graphically portray the suicide of Seth Hubbard?

5. Seth Hubbard’s character is both dark and light, good yet flawed. What qualities and examples represent the good and the light? What qualities and examples represent a troubled and flawed man?

6. What are the multiple factors that relate to the contesting of the will/estate by Hubbard’s children as well as a battleground for legal discussion? Explain.

7. What is your impression of the character and personality of the black maid, Lettie Lang? What is her past and background as revealed in the early chapters? How does she comport herself at the beginning of the novel, in the presence of Seth’s children, upon hearing of Seth’s will, and concerning her husband?

8. What is Lettie’s true identity as revealed through Charlie Pardue, Boaz Rinds, and the powerful investigative talents of her own daughter Portia?

9. The theme of avarice and greed threads its way through the novel—and most shockingly from those who have no familial rights—the lawyers! Almost 45% of the novel focuses on the scavengers-- lawyers, investigators, and witnesses, who feed on the flesh of money made from this trial. What impressions and examples can you use to support this idea? Is this an accurate portrayal of legal proceedings?

10. What is the personality of the Honorable Judge Atlee? What is your impression of his personal style as well as his conduction of his legal responsibilities? Is he on Jake’s side or is there a darker undercurrent to his nature? How is his power and authority asserted in the final resolution of the case?

11. Suspense builds in the novel regarding Seth’s younger brother Ancil, who is also named in the will. What details are revealed and uncovered concerning Ancil’s background and history? What did Ancil see…and how did this traumatic event alter his personality? What do we learn when he is discovered in a hospital in Juneau, Alaska?

12. What was John Grisham’s literary intent in holding Ancil’s story until the last chapters?

13. Who is Sylvester Rinds and how did he come to own 80 acres of land that was then deeded to Cleon Hubbard by Sylvester Rinds wife? How did the land come to Seth Hubbard?

14. One despicable character in the novel is Lettie’s husband, Simeon Lang. Describe his personality and what role he plays in the tragic events of the novel.

15. There are so many colorful characters in the novel who either directly or indirectly affect the outcome of events such as Portia, Lucien Wilbanks, Harry Lee Rex, Ozzie, Dumas Lee, Wade Lanier, Quince Lundy, Charlie Pardue, Boaz Rinds, etc, etc…….What do these characters add to the novel’s story and uniqueness?

16. What legal regulatory errors occur in the trial (allowed by Judge Atlee) that lead to the real possibility of an appeal and a retrial of the case?

17. Why is the case resolved before an appeal can be requested? How is the case resolved?

18. Are you satisfied with the reason/s Seth Hubbard changed his will and left his estate to Lettie? Or do you find the idea contestable?

19. Sometimes a reader imagines a different resolution of ending to a major bone of contention in a novel. Could John Grisham have created a tighter, more familial connection between Seth and Lettie that would have enhanced the ending and solution of the will?

20. In the tradition of Southern literature, mainly William Faulkner, the novel is based on these multiple characters who weave in and out of the plot like fireflies. John Grisham, like Faulkner, is trying to establish a community of townsfolk to relate to in future novels. Is this literary device effective?

(Questions developed by MaryAnne Johnson of The Crack Spine Book Club.)

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by Sheila M. (see profile) 02/24/21

by mary R. (see profile) 05/08/20

by Anika S. (see profile) 01/07/19

  "Sycamore Row"by Suzanne C. (see profile) 04/04/18

Old school legal mystery-Grisham's forte! I loved reuniting with Jake Brigance and the other characters.It was a fun read.

by Sharon L. (see profile) 09/26/17

  "a good read"by Charlene D. (see profile) 02/18/17

i was fascinated with the behind the scenes details that Grisham sheds let on in the world of law. It also fascinates me how different the world can be within one country.

  "Sycomore Row"by Anita Hudspeth H. (see profile) 05/26/15

All of our book club enjoyed this book. You wanted to keep reading and not put it down. There are twist and turns that surprise you A father that wasn't involved with his children or grandchildren.

  "Dynamite Row"by Kimberly W. (see profile) 03/28/15

The book is well written and some of the favorite characters were brought back from A Time To Kill

by Maureen C. (see profile) 11/25/14

I've read and enjoyed other Grisham books, but did not like this novel. I thought the story was interesting, as were some of the characters; however, I found it too long, too detailed and very tedious... (read more)

by Ruth H. (see profile) 11/25/14

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