The Reckoning

“But this isn’t a courtroom thriller!”

That’s what I heard you say, and then you threw it aside because you are a certain type of reader.

Maybe you’re that type of reader, maybe you’re not. But you’re right that The Reckoning is not a typical John Grisham thriller. Despite a couple of brief courtroom scenes, and a few behind-the-scenes legal episodes, it’s actually historical fiction, with emphasis on the history. Even though it’s a novel, it’s not all fiction and it taught me a lot about the South-East Asian Theatre of World War II, the Bataan Death March, General Douglas MacArthur, and race relations in Mississippi during the ’40s. I found this a potent and fascinating story, but YMMV. If you’re looking for standard Grisham, if you can’t stand books that differ from an author’s usual oeuvre, stay away. It will be your loss.

On a related point, I seem to be thinking a lot about Ibsen lately, especially An Enemy of the PeopleThe Wild Duck, and Weston’s play The Lie that Binds. (And soon I’ll have some comments about J.K. Rowling and Rosmersholm. Stay tuned.) The Reckoning reminds me in one way of The Wild Duck. Let me explain why. Part of the historical fiction narrative here is a family saga, the story of white farmers in northern Mississippi. It’s not told in straightforward chronological fashion, and two thirds of the way through the book you’ll know the ending. Or so you’ll think. But be prepared to be surprised. This family saga (like many others) is built on lies, and that’s the connection with The Wild Duck. So we have several intertwined stories competing for our attention here: the World War II history, the family saga, and race relations. You can sort them all out if you hold onto all the threads. You may even be able to tell truth from fiction.

Categories: Books