The Confession by John Grisham

By Ekta R. Garg

November 3, 2010

Rated: Bookmark it!

Just sixty-six pages shy of the end of his latest book, John Grisham made me cry.

Released Oct. 26, 2010 his newest book, The Confession, contains all the hallmarks of a typical Grisham novel: a compelling story, memorable characters, an honest look at our nation’s justice system, and a healthy examination of race relations.  Like most of his other books, The Confession is a legal thriller.  I think it’s also an exercise in courage.  With something as complex and deep as the laws that govern our country, it takes a great deal of bravado to call the shots for what they are and not dress them up in pretty words or hide them in the folds of complicated language.

Grisham has done this before, but I got the distinct feeling that for this book he dug a little deeper to tell his tale.  And what a tale it is!

The book opens on a Monday morning with a meeting between Keith Schroeder, the minister at St. Mark’s in Topeka, Kansas, and Travis Boyette, a man who says he has a burden to share.  That burden is a weighty one: he claims to have abducted, raped, and killed a Texas high school cheerleader almost nine years earlier.  Boyette is no stranger to crime; his record is filled with several convictions for sexual assault.  But somehow he manages to steer clear of the conviction of the cheerleader’s violation.  That burden, instead, was placed wrongly on the shoulders of a black football player in school with the cheerleader.  Boyette always expected that the system would prove the football player innocent; instead, the football player is just four days away from his execution for the crime.  And Boyette wants to confess and save the football player’s life if he can.

Keith Schroeder, understandably, is shocked with the information he receives and asks the obvious question: why, after nine years, did Travis Boyette decide to speak up?  Boyette says he’s suffering from a malignant brain tumor and wants to clear his conscience before he breathes his last.

Grisham takes his time to build the pace of his story, but when he does it suddenly induces late nights of staying up late and forcing one’s eyes to stay open to read “just one more chapter.”  The story has so much depth it’s hard to remember that about two-thirds of it takes place over the course of just one week.  And the details of that week make one shiver.

Having lived in Texas myself for three years, I was impressed with how on-the-spot Grisham’s descriptions were of life and ideologies here.  At the risk of sounding politically incorrect, we have to be real with one another: while racism may be dead in name, it still manages to lurk around the edges of society and manifest itself in explosive situations such as the one Grisham presents in this tome.

But Grisham also encourages us with several examples of people doing the right thing despite the pressures of racism, and I cried at one of those examples.  A key football game (but then, aren’t they all key games in Texas?) is moved to a new location, and the players show a solidarity for the situation at hand that brought tears to my eyes.  And made me want to keep reading.

And in the end, those to me are the signs of a great book, which Grisham has given us once again.  Without a doubt, The Confession is a must-read for seasoned Grisham fans and those looking for a story that binds old ideas with the new era.


What the ratings mean:

Bookmark it!–Read this book and then buy it and add it to to your own collection.  It’s definitely worth it!

Borrow it–Check this one out from the library; it’s a worthy read, but think twice before spending your hard-earned money on it.

Bypass it–Free time is precious.  Don’t spend it on this book!

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