The Chamber by John Grisham a review
Adam Hall is an up and coming Lawyer from a major Law Firm in Chicago where he is just beginning to cut his teeth in his chosen profession. He travels to Mississippi to defend his estranged Grandfather Sam Cayhall who is only days away from execution via the gas chamber for his involvement in the bombing of a small Jewish law firm 20 years earlier. The Klu Klux Klan motivated bombing resulted in the death of young twins who had the misfortune of being in the office at the time. Now in the late 1980’s Adam has the unenviable task of not only representing a hopeless old man who seems reluctant to move on from his now outdated hatred of blacks and Jews, he must also get to know the Grandfather he never had. The Chamber by John Grisham offers the reader a fascinatingly intimate look at life on death row.
This book is not a typical John Grisham legal story, there is no team of lawyers or deep legal ease. It is rather, the story of a man's quest to uncover a past that should be left well and truly buried. Grisham has managed to capture the harsh realities of life on death row and the rapidly changing emotions and self realization of the condemned as the final days hours and minutes tick by. It is this that Grisham does so well. The reader is left with mixed feelings after reading this book. I’m still not sure how I feel about both Cayhall and the punishment dealt out to him. It is an eye opener for those unfamiliar with the processes involved in preparing for an execution and provides great insight into the emotional ride it takes all involved on. From the seemingly detached protesters and supporters outside the prison gates to the prison guards required to carry out the final act and ultimately to the inmates themselves.
There are a number of important themes in this book, of course there is the emotional and somewhat difficult questions about the death penalty and its controversial role in society. Grisham also sets out to somewhat dissect the mind of a Klansman and understand what drove racism and hate in 1960’s America. Ultimately he delves into how the shame of one individual's acts can destroy not only their immediate family members lives but even the lives of family members for generations to come.
The story does begin a little slow but this is one of those novels where persistence definitely pays off. The character development is deep and involving. It’s told from the third person perspective which allows us to remain somewhat objective and gives us the opportunity to slowly form our own opinions of what is justice and what is simply bloodlust. After reading this book it will leave you thinking (always the sign of a great novel), both about the state of racism in the modern world and the issues of justice, particularly those relating to the death penalty. Aside from the above mentioned themes there is also the building anticipation as the book draws on; will they execute Sam Cayhall?
I can highly recommend this as one of John Grisham’s best and suggest you put it on your book list. The Chamber by John Grisham can be purchased at Amazon.