The Testament by John Grisham

“Grisham? No way. Go for someone like Dostoyevsky or Dalrymple or even Amitav Ghosh. Nobody reviews a John Grisham novel by choice”, was how my friend and fellow members at the college newspaper board responded when I told them that I wanted to review The Testament for my internship program.” But why?”, I protested. Being a hardcore John Grisham fan, I couldn’t take these comments lying down. “For someone who has authored 22 books so far and sold more than 250 million copies worldwide with 9 of his books turned into movies, don’t you think he deserves a lot more respect?”, I contended. “That’s exactly my point. You don’t review books that everyone has read or heard of. Instead, choose authors whose names don’t really ring a bell with the masses. Bestselling authors are not considered sophisticated enough. Just look up who the bestselling authors in India are and you’ll know what I mean”.

Sophisticated or not, I wasn’t going to let this argument alter my decision. I’ve always been a huge John Grisham fan, and an unabashed one at that, always recommending his books to any new ‘aspiring’ reader daring to ask me for my advice. In fact, it was Grisham who got me started into the world of novels. I remember reading ‘The Street Lawyer’ during my 10th boards exams because I just couldn’t let go of it. That sort of resulted in a not so flattering mark sheet which was a bit difficult to explain to my parents who were expecting a much better performance, but that’s a different story. Nevertheless, I’ve been following his work since then, having read all his books so far (not a mean feat considering the fact that he turns out a book almost every year). Born on February 8, 1955 in Arkansas to a construction worker and a homemaker, Grisham was working 60-70 hours a week at a Missisipi law firm before turning into a full time writer and one of the greatest success stories in publishing history. He got inspired to write his first novel, ‘A Time To Kill’, after he heard the harrowing testimony of a 12 year old rape victim. Initially rejected by many publishers, it was eventually bought by Wynwood Press, who gave it a modest 5000 copies printing. He eventually sold the film rights to Paramount Pictures for $600,000 which made Grisham a hot property among publishers. He has since authored 21 other books and all of them have become international bestsellers.

The Testament, published in 1999, is the story of an outlandish billionaire, Troy Phelan, who is about to divide his $11 billion estate amongst his three ex-wives and six children, who are all waiting for the old man to die. But Phelan eventually shocks everyone, even his trusted lawyer, Josh Strafford. He gives his entire estate to his illegitimate (and hitherto unknown to everyone else) daughter Rachel Lane before jumping to death from the 14th floor of his building. Nate O’ Riley, a litigator battling the problems of alcoholism, a couple of bad marriages and IRS is assigned the task of find this new mysterious billionaire heiress, who has shunned the modern world and its trappings and is living in some remote jungles of Brazil with some primitive Indian tribes, carrying out “God’s work”.

Being a lawyer, Grisham tells his stories in matter- of- factly way. His characters are all real and believable and they are woven together to tell a story.

Prateek Jain

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