Book Review “The Reckoning”

9780525639312Review by Francene DePrez

John Grisham is one of my favorite authors, and I was happy to see this new book on the shelves of Jefferson Carnegie Library.

The book starts off “On a cold morning in early October of 1946” and is the story of Pete Banning, recently returned from World War II.

His children, a boy and his younger sister, are away at college, and his wife has been committed to an asylum for mental issues.He sipped his coffee and thought, “Today would be the last day of his life as he knew it, and he had accepted this. He had no choice.”

He went to Clanton, Mississippi and shot the Methodist pastor three times. Part One of the book, entitled “The Killing,” details Banning’s trial through his death. Part Two, “The Boneyard,” is a flashback to Pete’s time in the Philippines, where he was part of the prisoners that were forced on the Bataan Death March.

His wife was informed that he had been captured and was presumed dead. He and two other prisoners were able to escape and fought for three years on the island as guerillas. Once the Japanese were surrounded, they were found in miserable condition and were returned to the U.S. for the long road to recovery.

Banning was lucky – he still had all his limbs. Part Three, “The Betrayal,” picks up with the children trying to put the pieces back together after their father’s death. Their mother is still in the asylum and has not made much progress in her mental health.

This portion of the book speaks to the legal battles from the Methodist preacher’s wife, who is suing for wrongful death. From the first chapter to the last, we wonder about the motive for the shooting. Pete takes that to his grave. We finally discover the truth – and I must say the ending is a surprise – on the next to the last page of the book.

So be patient and keep reading to discover why Pete killed the preacher and to read “the rest of the story.” Jodi Picoult writes “John Grisham is the master of legal fiction, and his latest starts with a literal bang — and then travels backward through the horrors of war to explore what makes a hero, what makes a villain, and how thin the line between the two might be.”

“When a master of storytelling and suspense takes on one of the most wrenching stories in history, the result is a book that will break your heart, set your blood pumping and your mind racing, and leave you gasping for breath by the final page. I’m still trying to recover from The Reckoning,” writes Candice Millard.

The library has quite a few books and CDs by John Grisham, many of which I have not read.

I look forward to picking up another book by this author. I agree with The New York Times that “John Grisham is about as good a storyteller as we’ve got in the United States these days.”


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