The Reckoning by John Grisham

The Reckoning by John Grisham

Hello Friends, as I said in my earlier post, I was reading The Reckoning by John Grisham. Well, I finished. It was a mistake on my part. Grisham is known for his legal thriller. Stupid me didn’t look too closely before deciding to read it. Now I remember that I did skip a few books of his just because they were historical or something else. I didn’t read any of his YA books. It’s a rather lengthy book with three parts in it. As my readers probably know that I’m not a historical fiction fan – one BIG exception is when the setting is WWII and the story line has something to do with the resistance or assistance of Jews.


Pete Banning was Clanton, Mississippi’s favorite son—a decorated World War II hero, the patriarch of a prominent family, a farmer, father, neighbor, and a faithful member of the Methodist church. Then one cool October morning he rose early, drove into town, walked into the church, and calmly shot and killed his pastor and friend, the Reverend Dexter Bell. As if the murder weren’t shocking enough, it was even more baffling that Pete’s only statement about it—to the sheriff, to his lawyers, to the judge, to the jury, and to his family—was: “I have nothing to say.” He was not afraid of death and was willing to take his motive to the grave.

My Thoughts

A disclaimer here: I’m not a history buff. Historical fiction is not my favorite genre. So, if you happen to love history, perhaps you’d feel differently about this novel.

For one thing, I skipped a lot of pages about the history and skimmed the pages about the wartime events as they relate to the story. The entire first part can be summed up as “Pete Banning killed a popular pastor and would stubbornly refuse to give his motive or help in his own defense.” Aside from refusing to discuss the crime with his family or lawyer or anyone, for that matter, Grisham doesn’t bother to clue us into the real motive. I suppose it’s his intention to have the readers as frustrated as the lawyer.

I was hoping I’d get some answers in the second part about Pete Banning and his wife, their brief courtship, the years before and after he got shipped out to war, declared MIA and presumed dead. The author devoted many pages to the war which I skipped or skimmed. Not really getting any answer there. So, I moved on to the last part.

Not until the last pages that I finally got the answer.

In Conclusion

And it’s not a satisfying one. Pete claimed that he would always love his wife, but he could not forgive her. (You’ll have to read the novel to find out why he would need to forgive her.) So I can only conclude that he didn’t really love her that much. Or, perhaps my Catholic Christian psyche plays a part in here. Forgiveness is such a big thing in Christianity.

Resorting to murder seems to be an overreaction for the offense. Pete claimed to be of sound mind, but he didn’t seem to consider the consequences of his selfish action on his children, his legacy, his family. Was he so self-centered that he couldn’t think of an alternative solution for the sake of his children? So, maybe his love for his wife wasn’t enough, but wouldn’t his love for his children pull him back from the edge of insanity?


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