The Testament: A Novel

by John Grisham

Ebook, 1999



Fiction. Literature. Suspense. Thriller. HTML: #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER â?˘ In a plush Virginia office, a rich, angry old man is furiously rewriting his will. With his death just hours away, Troy Phelan wants to send a message to his children, his ex-wives, and his minionsâ??a message that will touch off a vicious legal battle and transform dozens of lives. Because Troy Phelanâ??s new will names a sole surprise heir to his eleven-billion-dollar fortune: a mysterious woman named Rachel Lane, a missionary living deep in the jungles of Brazil. Enter the lawyers. Nate Oâ??Riley is fresh out of rehab, a disgraced corporate attorney handpicked for his last job: to find Rachel Lane at any cost. As Phelanâ??s family circles like vultures in D.C., Nate goes crashing through the Brazilian jungle, entering a world where money means nothing, where death is just one misstep away, and where a womanâ??pursued by enemies and friends alikeâ??holds a stunning surp… (more)


½ (1604 ratings; 3.6)


Dublin Literary Award (Longlist — 2001)
Audie Award (Finalist — 2000)

User reviews

LibraryThing member rustbucket
My favorite John Grisham book is the Testament. Propped over my grocery cart, I saw it. Juggling a new round of depression meds, I was death barely functioning. I doubted I could hoist a paperback to my eyes, yet once I did, I found myself alive within the maudlin text of the first paragraph. I
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grinned at the eccentricities of Troy Phelan. Together, Nate and I stepped out of rehab, traveled to exotic places, and met many spirited faces. I cheated my own darkness by the sunrise over the Pantanal. It was the best vaction of my life.
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LibraryThing member mramos
John Grisham has done it again. I had read this book originally a year after release. And I just finished my second read. And though it all started to come back to me as I read it...It was still an exciting page-turner as it was the first time. That says a lot about this book.

A self-made
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billionaire, the tenth richest man in America, has all his heirs come in to prove he is sane and competent before signing his last Will and Testament. Which he does, right before he commits suicide in front of those still present. And of course as he leaves out each and every known heir from his will. And as you learn how greedy and selfish they are, you are pleased he did.

He does pay off all his children's debt and leaves the remainder of his holdings to his illegitimate daughter no one knew he had. Nor does anyone know where she is. His law firm sends a drug/alcohol addict just out of rehab for the fourth time to find her. He finds her an M.D. who has dedicated her life to God and is working deep in the jungles of Brazil.

I found the book a very fast read that has some plot twist and is well written. Well worth the read.
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LibraryThing member LibraryCin
When billionaire Troy Phelan commits suicide just after signing a will, there is a surprise for his dysfunctional family. All of the three ex-wives and six adult children who had gathered for the signing, minutes after they left the room, were cut out with a new handwritten holographic will, given
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from Troy to his lawyer. The family had just had cameras in the room, and had videotaped three psychologists saying he was in his right mind when he signed the will they thought would make them all enormously rich. They are in for a shock when, one month later (after they’ve gone out and spent the money they thought they were getting), they learn that the will they saw him sign was no longer valid; the new will left his 11 billion to his long-lost illegitimate missionary daughter, Rachel, currently living somewhere in Brazil. Troy’s lawyer, Josh, sends one of the other lawyers in his firm to Brazil to find Rachel.

I thought this was really good. Boy, that family was hateful! We didn’t really get to know Troy, and apparently he wasn’t likeable, either, but you could sure see why he wanted to cut those ungrateful offspring (and ex-wives) out of the will altogether! Much of the novel was Nate trying to find Rachel in Brazil, which was entertaining, which leads me to mention that here were a number of humourous moments in the book, as well, which was kind of fun.
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LibraryThing member nderdog
Another great Grisham novel. I really enjoyed this one, and couldn't wait to find out how it ended. An interesting contrast of the good and bad of life.
LibraryThing member wyn
Excellent story line which was very well written and easy to read. Got to know the main characters and in particular empaphised with Nate. Inevitably drawn to happy ending but not the case and overall I thought the last chapters were realistic and well thought out.
LibraryThing member jaygheiser
Bought this one by mistake in FRA (didn't have LibraryThing access) not realising that I'd already read it once. It still sucked me in, and I completed it in just over 24 hours. An excellent story with a strong Christian theme. Perhaps his best--certainly not in the same mold as most of his other
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LibraryThing member polutropos
Solid, page-turner Grisham. Satisfying quick read.
LibraryThing member mporto
Unpleasant lack of precision about Brazil, (Written in March 6, 2003)

It happens that I am Brazilian and when I read American novelists and by chance the story has passages held in Brazil or has references to our uses and costumes I always get annoyed.

John Grisham is not an exception.

His book "The
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Testament", an adventure which divides its scenario between the court rooms of Virginia and the Pantanal in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, in Brazil, gives a completely wrong panorama of Brazil and his people. In some passages Grisham crosses the line of offense.

The city of Corumbá, where was taken most of the hints used by Grisham, was not even included between the 200 biggest Brazilian cities. At that time 213 cities had more than 100.000 inhabitants and Corumbá counted around 95.000 in its urban area.

The first thing an author has to have in mind before issue a concept about the country and its people is that Brazil is a huge country, more than 8 million squares kilometers wide, where lives more than 170 million inhabitants and where the diversity of culture, costumes, habits and facilities are tremendous.

Anyone that judges the country based on experience in one single location will fall into plain misled.

That is what happened with the character Nate O'Riley of "The Testament" which issued his opinions about Brazil by his acquaintances in the small city of Corumbá in the banks of river Paraguai.

Starting in page 89 (Island Books - Dell Publishing 2000) Nate ask to his boss "So they have phones in Brazil" In this episode there is a chance, by the comment of his fellow character Josh, that Grisham wants to point out the ignorance of the entire American people about Brazil using the ignorance of his character Nate as sample. The same applies for the estrange thinking of Nate when he boards the plane to Corumbá at page 98. Not considering this idea the thinking is offensive.

It is amazing that a writer which also happens to be a law man makes, on page 102, such simplifying explanation about the Brazilian practician law system. It is not true that courtrooms were not a integral part of practician law in Brazil. The difference in relation of the American style litigation is that only homicides crimes held a jury. In civil and other types of offenses the courtroom actors are limited to the judge, lawyers, parties and testimonies and no popular jury is involved. So trials are not rare, they just don't apply for crimes other than homicide. Like commons Americans Grisham is only aware of the American style, the rest of the world is simple the rest of the world.

Brazilian knows the problems of their public hospitals and are working to improve the system but in inconceivable that the wealthy character Nate have to be conducted (pg.333) to a nasty public hospital in a small town instead of private one just to say a lot of imprecations to be generalize to all hospitals in Brazil forgetting that, besides the problems, Brazil has modern hospital facilities, some even publics, and a advanced research medicine with top awards in genetics, cardiology, plastic surgeon, and AIDS therapy. An American doctor, cogitated, by the author, to be transported from 3.000 miles away would not treat better a patient with Dengue than an experiment Brazilian specialist in tropical diseases.

The page 335 statement of "a tide of the finest American-made chemicals" given to Nate is a falsehood. No Brazilian hospitals uses American-made chemicals as a routine.

At page 376 we found the worst concept about Brazil made by Mr. Grisham. Is a complete misunderstanding of our culture.
We inherit from our Portuguese's, colonizers, what we call in Portuguese "estamento polĂ­tico." In this context is the bureaucracy which included what is usually known as "despachantes"

Since the 70's all the successive governments worked to exclude or at least reduce in our society the bureaucracy monster. The results in those 30 years have been enormous. Today, although reminiscent in interior land and small towns, Brazilians can get important documents trough the Internet automatically. This includes annual IRS declaration since 1996. So, "despachantes" are not a much used figure in big cities except by old class citizens, still aggregated to the past. I don't want to say that the Brazilian bureaucracy is already a wonder but is improving each year.
Besides that, the text of Mr. Grisham is full of mistakes. "Despachantes" were never used for voting. The voting system in Brazil designed and built by Brazilians firms is the most modern in the world where every 100 millions assigned electors in the 2002 election voted in a computerized system trough a electronic ballot and the final results where officially published 24 hours later. Compare this performance with the last American presidential election. Observers all over the world came to the country to study our voting system.

Is it believable that a country with such a technology capacity, with a aeronautical industry competing and exporting for many countries which includes United States and Canada could be depicted as a bunch of Indians aside their huts?

The affirmative at top of page 377 stating that a American passport was issued for Nate for US$ 2.000 trough the services of a "despachante" is outrageous. First because no American passport can be issued by a Brazilian Government Agency. If some "despachante" was used, was an American "despachante" for the American Consulate services. Second, because a Brazilian passport can be issued without "long lines" for less than US$ 20.

Is not forbidden to an author to write the realities about a country but a best-seller author must have compromise with the absolute truth and not create wrong general impressions.

Concluding this comment, I still recommend the book as a good novel with a smart plot showing aspect of courtrooms, legal conferences, judges chambers and exotic wild places of Brazil but I do not recommend it for Brazilian readers. Most of them will get annoyed like me with Grisham's misleads
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LibraryThing member MichaelDeavers
A Super book that Ranks right up there as his best.

I got this book from the book club. I've read just about all of John Grisham's novels, but for some reason I missed this one. I'm certainly glad I didn't, because I thought The Testament was close to being one of his best. I really enjoyed "The
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Partner", but this book ranks right up there. The characters were likable and believable. Mr. Grisham has demonstrated once more that he has a social conscience. He created a lovely and easy to understand description of the Gospel of Jesus. Certainly, the best that I have ever read. I'm sure that if people read this book they will get a better understanding as to how God works and that he his there for them in their time of need. Just a wonderful story
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LibraryThing member Grandeplease
I thoroughly enjoyed this Grisham tale. I spend many hours a week working on estate planning issues and more than once thought while reading The Testament that much of the story is plausible. A good read even though a billion dollars isn't what it once was . . .
LibraryThing member mcollier
This book is like eating a huge ice cream sundae: You're happy you ate it, but your stomach hurts afterwards. It was a good book, but I hated how (**Spoiler**) Nate only met Rachael once. I wish they could have had more interaction. But the heirs of Troy Phelan keep you laughing. Not my favorite
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ending, but it fit.
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LibraryThing member koalamom
Nate has spent his career as a lawyer trying to find himself in a bottle. When he has to find a long long and unknown heir to a fortune, he finds more than the heiress, but himself sans that pesky bottle.
LibraryThing member baroquem
I acquired my first two John Grisham novels at the same time and, unfortunately, read _The Partner_ first. But I figured I owed Grisham one more chance before giving up on him completely. Luckily for us both, _The Testament_ is a much better book. I enjoyed the depictions of Brazil and the journies
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through the Pantanal, and the author managed to confound my expectations about Nate's encounter with Rachel.

If I have one nit to pick, it's that Grisham again introduces an event that makes no narrative sense, that seems to exist only as a contrivance to add a bit of mystery to the proceedings. Since he did something similar in _The Partner_, I'm wondering if this is a common problem in his books. What am I talking about? See below.

********* SPOILER WARNING! **************

When Rachel goes to Corumba and visits Nate in the hospital, he's not sure if he actually saw her or was just dreaming. He and Jevy search everywhere, but find no trace of her; Jevy, with his contacts and local knowledge, is finally convinced that Rachel has not entered the town.

But we learn that Rachel *was* in Corumba! And so we're forced to conclude that she snuck into town, carefully avoiding contact with any of the locals who could identify her. Why? There's no reason for such behavior in the story – it only exists as a plot device for the author to keep Nate – and his readers – guessing until the end.
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LibraryThing member Zhindgelle
The theme of the story is about reaching out. Reaching out to anybody especially the poor and the less privileged. Giving up something for the passion of helping one another .. For Rachel, she gave up the inheritance as she will never need it or perhaps she will need a portion of it just to buy
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stuff needed at the place she loves. We are all children of this Earth, so we should reach out to those who need us.
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LibraryThing member bennyb
This was the first Grisham book I ever read. I enjoyed it so much I kept reading his other stories. A gripping tale that surprised me all along the way through.
LibraryThing member Ellenm33
Loved this book! The main charactor is a louse, he's made a mess of his life and he knows it. His boss is his best friend and has his back through it all. His last assignment allows him to exercise his demons, and finally find peace. Mr. Grisham has created a believable cast of charactors and sheds
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terrific insight on a dark and lonely condition in life.....addiction.
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LibraryThing member zhoud2005
I really enjoyed this book.
LibraryThing member AliceAnna
I liked this at the start, but then it got too preachy for me. The protagonist's "conversion" wasn't the least bit believable. He prays once and is no longer an alcoholic. And I didn't like seeing him proceed to lie about things even if the family didn't deserve the money. Just really a weak, weak
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LibraryThing member zebraannie
Full of intrigue and no smut.
LibraryThing member gogglemiss
I haven't read John Grisham, since

This is my first Grisham read, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
LibraryThing member donagiles
Good story, man is in rehab , learns to trust in God and learns to live.
Lawyer - hates job, drink & drugs ruined his and family life.
LibraryThing member sail7
I only give it three stars because the story just fades out at the end. Still a satisfying read, but 3/4 through, you wonder how he's going to tie up the loose ends, and he does it rather quickly without the richness of prose he's given the first part of the book.
LibraryThing member ecw0647
The Testament contrasts the heirs of a very rich man who decides that he wants to leave all his money to someone who doesn’t want it.
Troy Phelan, a 78-year-old fabulously wealthy eccentric is sick of living and tired of his money-grubbing relatives who can’t wait for him to die so they can
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partake of his billions. Their grasping has already spawned a legion of lawyers. Phelan has developed a plan to exclude all of them from his will. First he invites a battery of psychiatrists, hired by the family to certify that he is of sound mind — essential for the family since they assume the extent will will be the one in force at the time of his death — and after their seal of approval has been dutifully taped and witnessed, he reveals a holographic will to his personal attorney that pays only the debts of family members incurred as of the date of his death. He then walks over to the window of his immense office building and jumps out the window. A clause in his last testament prohibits his attorney from revealing the contents of the will before thirty days are up and all the remaining money, in the billions he leaves to an illegitimate child, Rachel Lane, no one has known of who, for the past eleven years, has been a missionary in the Brazil jungles.
The reading of the will tears everything loose. Lawyers begin to belly up to the trough, knowing that whatever the outcome of the will’s inevitable challenge — even though the will had specifically completely disinherited anyone in the family who challenged its provisions — they will benefit handsomely. The first item of business was to hire a PR firm to present the children as loving heirs cut out of their rightful inheritance by a demented man. As one lawyer (Grisham must really hate lawyers and PR people, they come across as such miserable people) noted, PR firms, i.e. professional liars don’t come cheap — he was charging $600 per hour and $400 per hour for his “useless” accompanying staff.
They also hired a new batch of psychiatrists — after having fired the first group, they had to get some who could now overrule the original finding of sanity. They found one quickly in the classified section of a magazine for trial lawyers.
A boozy lawyer agrees to search the Amazon Basin for the lost woman. A very good read
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LibraryThing member MrsLee
My favorite Grisham book, so far. I like the issues of redemption and struggling for the right actions, not just the ones which are logical.
LibraryThing member macfiar
Grisham is a great writer and delivers an interesting plot. However, the end is rushed and there are some legal holes you could drive a truck through. Plus one of the story lines just sort of dies.


Doubleday, (1999), 435 pages

Original publication date



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