Ford County is best-selling author John Grisham’s first collection of short stories, all of which are situated in the small towns (primarily Clanton) of Ford County, Mississippi.
In a sense, Grisham is returning home to the area where his first novel – A Time to a Kill – takes place. His easy writing prose (big words generally remain on the shelf unless he wants to discuss their meaning, guarantees at least a couple of hours of enjoyment with the tightly written seven stories within.
The stories (in order) include:
Blood Drive – A couple of good ol’ boys take a road trip to give blood in order to help save the life of a Box Hill man who’s been hurt in a construction accident. They don’t particularly take the “as the crow flies” route, detouring occasionally for beer and a nekkid-girlie show. When I read this one, I was rather doubting whether or not I’d enjoy the other stories. Blood Drive didn’t exactly tickle my fancy.
Fetching Raymond – A wheel-chair-bound mother and her two sons take a road trip (another one?) to see her third son, who’s about to face the gas chamber. I’m not giving away anything when I tell you the execution is … er, executed … and frankly, that’s about where the story ends. I wasn’t too wild about this one either.
Fish Files – This story about an attorney who isn’t making a lot of money but who has a big settlement dropped in his lap was interesting and fulfills the reader’s need for some closure after reading the first two stories. The end wasn’t great, but you had to feel good about how it turned out for him.
Casino – The more things change, the more they remain the same in the end. A fast-talking lawyer helps a native American raise lots of money for his people and in the process, makes the lawyer rich as well. That is, until a jilted run-of-the-mill insurance collector learns the ins and outs of blackjack and bankrupts the casino.
Michael’s Room – This one is kind-a nasty at first glance. Another lawyer is kidnapped, beaten, then taken to the home of a boy who was severely impaired when a doctor misdiagnosed his mother’s condition. Unfortunately, the lawyer was the one who defended the mal-practicing doctor. His punishment? Listen to the story of how the boy still survives and how much it costs annually, while the near-catatonic boy and his family sit in judgment.
Quiet Haven – I liked this story. The man seemed like a nice guy who just liked helping the elderly in an old folks home. The thing is, though, everything he does is for a reason. Nobody’s really hurt by his collaboration with a slick lawyer – those who aren’t vigilant in their care or dismissive in their attitudes get their come-uppance. The elderly he cares for improve their lives. So what if he makes a lot of money in the process?
Funny Boy – This is the best story of the lot. The young man has AIDS and is shunned by his family of white folk. Even the black folk who live in the area of town where he’s staying to finish out his days give in to their fears and ignorance and refuse contact of any sort. But there is one person who has a heart, she stands to gain nothing but the love, admiration and respect of the young man. I gave her some of mine as well.
Ford County is an easy and quick read, will fill a couple of afternoons, and if you read them in the order presented, will leave you happy and feeling good about the world.
Doubleday ($24.00 list)