The Testament

By: John Grisham

Rating: 81%

Brief Summary: A woman nun in the Rainforest.

Another year, another unrealistic tale from John Grisham. As long as they are somewhat entertaining - I suppose I will probably keep reading them.

In the story of question - The Testament - we meet Troy Phelan - a 78-year-old eccentric man, who happens to be the tenth richest man in America. As we first are introduced to him, he is about to read his last will and testament. Being his total worth is in the eleven billion dollar range, there are those who are very interested in the outcome. For example, his three ex-wives, several lawyers, psychiatrists, and other. They all wait "breathlessly" as the old man reads his verdict. Suffice to say, Phelan shocks them all... the winner is: Rachel Lane. "Who?" is the most common response.

Next we meet our hero: Nate O'Riley - a washed-up, alcoholic attorney, an unsuccessful husband, who is fleeing from the IRS. This leaves two questions: (1) Can Grisham be any more cynical with his lead character? and (2) What role could Nate possibly play?

[Spoiler Alert] Well Nate is sent to the Brazilian wetlands - in the Pantanal - in search of the mysterious heir named in Pheylon's will. After an "adventurous" trip, he encounters a lonely settlement . Here he meets Rachel Lane - a very simple missionary living with a near primitive folk and doing the will of God. Rachel's dedication and kindness have such an impact on the cynical Nate, that she leads him to a vision - through a nasty sickness - that could change everything for him...

Meanwhile, the legal proceedings are dragging on as Phelan's corrupt descendents - an unlikable sort - are trying to receive the inheritance for themselves. The questions that are posed are: Will this Nun help turn Nate's life around? Will she inherit the money? And if so, what could a simple missionary - who has chosen a nonmaterialistic life - want with it? [End Spoiler Alert]

In The Testament, Grisham tries to tell more than a story. He tries to write a novel that involves integrity, character, faith and morals. Does he succeed? It depends how you look at it. His writing style - and plot formulas - tend to be the same in every story; his characters cynical, the good guy wins, etc. In this sense, The Testament appears to be like all of the others. Although, if you do pay close attention to the plot details - it is most definitely a story that he writes with strong opinion and he is trying to send a message with it. If you buy into what he is teaching, then sure, it may have an affect on you. However, if you are not looking for these things, it will be just another story - but definitively not a bad one at all. It is fairly entertaining, there is some humor - in regards to Pheylon's horrendous family - and easy to read in that normal John Grisham brisk writing style.

This is the second novel in a row that Grisham has tried to send a message to the reader - following The Street Lawyer. In that novel however, the story was bad and the message was too strong. With The Testament, however, both of those faults are somewhat corrected, and therefore I can give a positive recommendation of this the novel. By no means a Grisham classic, but a decent diversion for a long weekend.

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