Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines~★★★★

Author: Ernest J. Gaines
Title: A Lesson Before Dying
Release Date: 1993; This version released September 28th, 1997
Publisher: Vintage
Genre: Fiction

Book Jacket: "A Lesson Before Dying is set in a small Cajun community in the late 1940s. Jefferson, a young black man, is an unwitting party to a liquor store shootout in which three men are killed; the only survivor, he is convicted of murder and sentenced to death. Grant Wiggins, who left his hometown for the university, has returned to the plantation school to teach. As he struggles with his decision whether to stay or escape to another state, his aunt and Jefferson's godmother persuade him to visit Jefferson in his cell and impart his learning and his pride to Jefferson before his death. In the end, the two men forge a bond as they both come to understand the simple heroism of resisting-and defying-the expected."

Taryn's Review: This book was on the kiosk at the my library in honor of Black History Month. I had checked out the book once before, but I knew I hadn't really read it well. I picked up it and added to my pile of books, and I'm happy to report that it was good choice.

I thought the book was written in the 1940s or 1950s and was surprised to find it was written in 1993. Gaines did an awesome job relaying the racial tensions between the white and black people's conversations, especially when he wrote the character of Grant Wiggins and had Wiggins dumb himself down since, according to the whites, he wasn't supposed to be smart.

Jefferson was truly a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, yet Grant and Jefferson find something in each other and themselves that might not have been uncovered if not for the situation at hand. I loved how Gaines incorporated Jefferson's notebook into the book, shifting the novel for a while to Jefferson's viewpoint.

This a great book. My only reason for not giving it ★★★★★ is because Grant Wiggins is really a difficult character to sympathize with. It's hard to feel what he's feeling because sometimes you don't know what in the world he might be thinking. I wanted to cry with Grant, but I couldn't because I couldn't know why he was upset since he isn't predictable. However, you should still read the book. It's a great piece of work and very easy to read...I read it in one afternoon!

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