Sycamore Row

by John Grisham

Hardcover, 2013

Call number





Doubleday (2013), Edition: 1st, 447 pages


When wealthy Seth Hubbard hangs himself from a sycamore tree and leaves his fortune to his black maid, Jake Brigance once again finds himself embroiled in a fiercely controversial trial -- a trial that will expose old racial tensions and force Ford County to confront its tortured history.

Media reviews

All the author’s strengths are in evidence—his capturing the rhythms of small-town life in Clanton, Miss., his skill at making legal minutiae comprehensible, and his gift at getting readers to care about his characters.

User reviews

LibraryThing member wareagle78
I like Jake Brigance, the main character. The storyline was interesting. I enjoy legal dramas in general. So why was this book so difficult to finish? I truly enjoyed some of the characteds, particularly Portia. For me the final third really dragged. The climax of the story was dramatic but
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predictable. I dunno, I'm left with a "meh".
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LibraryThing member Schmerguls
This is the 22nd book of John Grisham's I've read. Of those I have given 5 only one star. I am often dismayed by things about his books. This book did have disturbing things in it. I was bothered by the blatant behavior of the judge in talking to to the lawyer ex parte. I know this is often done in
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the real world but it is especially annoying when presented as if the judge was doing the right thing in helping the lawyer unethically. As I was once told by a lawyer, in his district not talking to the judge behind the back of opposing counsel would be legal malpractice. But it should be deplored since it is unethical and indefensible. There are other things in this book which are very unlikely, and some of the book, even to a lawyer, was boring. But the last part of the book is highly engaging and I confess I was eager to keep reading to see what would happen as Jake Brigance (the hero of Grisham's great book, A Time to Kill,) is defending a holographic will written by a guy who committed suicide the day after he wrote his will. A lot of the legal happenings are realistic and accurate, though I was surprised by the way strikes were exercised in picking the jury--but maybe that is how a jury is picked in Mississippi--I don't know. Pretty clearly the verdict in the case would not have stood up on appeal, as the judge well knew. But the book is clearly one of the better books Grisham has written and I enjoyed reading it very much.
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LibraryThing member Clara53
I hate to say this but John Grisham's earlier novels were much stronger. Lately, he's had some hits and misses, so I didn't know what to expect from this sequel to "A Time to Kill" (his first and one of his finest novels). "Sycamore Row" did give me a jolt, but only at the very end. It's only then
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that the shocking suicide with which the book opens made sombre sense. The rest of it (the major part of the book), the story leading to the explosive denouement during the tense courtroom drama, was a bit watery at best. I didn't think the sequel matched up.
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LibraryThing member sunnydrk
It had been a long time since I read a Grisham book that I really enjoyed and after reading Sycamore Row, I remembered what I liked about his books - deep and heavy storylines told in an easy, straightforward manner with likeable characters with just enough detail to keep things interesting but,
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not enough that you get bogged down in it. Sycamore Row brings back this style seen in Mr. Grisham's earlier books.
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LibraryThing member repb
It's a delight to be able to give a high rating again, not five stars, but as close as possible. Sycamore Row was a wonderful tale, with wonderful characters and suspense. Everyone knew what the ending would be, but it was fun watching it happen. I was surprised to find a continuity mistake early
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in the book, not that it changed much, but I was still surprised. I also found the court room drama a tad excessive but what do you expect from a lawyer author. A wonderful read that I really did have a hard time putting down.
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LibraryThing member brangwinn
Classic Grisham law novel set in Mississippi. There are plenty of twists and turns in the book and you might guess the ending, but it's still powerful storytelling, with the rich and powerful battling the poor.
LibraryThing member Stahl-Ricco
This book is the sequel to "A Time to Kill", and takes place in the fall of 1988, three years after the events in that book, especially the Carl Lee Hailey trial. That book was one of the, if not the, best Grisham books ever! This one? It is good, but not nearly as exciting or suspenseful. In
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"Sycamore Row", Jake Brigance is "hired" by a man he has never met, a day after that man committed suicide, to execute the dead man's will. The will is handwritten, specifically leaves out his children, and leaves 90% of the $24 million + estate to the housekeeper, who is a black woman. This is in Mississippi, so a rich white man giving a poor black woman that much money is a scandal indeed! Jake must defend this will in court, defuse the racial tension surrounding it, and find out why this old man left this woman so much money. Interesting read, but not exciting. Though I bet it is the most exciting book ever written about probate law! Even the big surprise at the end was not a surprise for me. Hmm...
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LibraryThing member laytonwoman3rd
An extremely wealthy man, dying from lung cancer, renounces his highly crafted, professionally drafted, tax-sheltering will, cutting out his children and grandchildren, but not his long-lost brother (who may or may not be alive), and leaving the bulk of his multi-million dollar estate to the black
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woman who was his last caregiver. Before hanging himself from a sycamore tree on a remote piece of his property, he sends his new handwritten, unwitnessed will, along with emphatically specific instructions, to our man, Jake Brigance, a lawyer he's never met. Naturally, this kind of thing doesn't fly in Clanton, Mississippi, in the 1980's, and a huge kerfuffle ensues.

I mostly listened to the audio version of this in the car, and found it a bit draggy that way, although the reader (Michael Beck) was pretty good. I kept thinking "Get ON with it, already!" Part of that, I suppose, is that I've spent the last ~40 years involved in civil litigation, and Grisham explains every bit of procedure, court rules and judicial prerogative for the uninitiated. Still, trying to look at it objectively, I think this one truly was over-stuffed with that kind of thing, and a pretty good story got buried in too much tedium. It's awfully hard to make a fight over a will in chancery court exciting...not even master story-teller John Grisham can really make that work. It's the people who make the story here, and it would have been a better one with less legal procedure and more emphasis on the human drama.
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LibraryThing member paperdust
I could get away with reading the first and last two chapters, everything else a cacophony of attorney bickering, race stereotyping and jury melodrama. Many references to Time to Kill; risks a repetitive and tired formula.
LibraryThing member booklovers2
Jake Brigance is in the spot light again. This time he is the attorney to carry out the handwritten will of a multi-millionaire. The problem is this will replaces a prior will that left all his money and property to his children and bequeaves 90% of his millions to his black housekeeper. If only it
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was that easy! Enjoyed listening to this one.
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LibraryThing member Twink
Twenty five years ago, the initial print run of John Grisham's first novel, A Time to Kill, was 5000 copies. His second novel propelled him onto the bestseller lists - where every subsequent novel has landed.

In his latest novel, Sycamore Row, Grisham takes us back to Clanton, Mississippi and his
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first character - 'street lawyer' Jake Brigance. Three years ago, in 1985, Jake successfully defended a black man accused of murder - the murder of the white rapists of his ten year old daughter. The trial and verdict divided the town and racial tension still runs high.

I was waiting for just the right time to crack the spine of Sycamore Row. (Figuratively speaking of course because I would never hurt a book. ;)
I just knew that once I started, I wouldn't want to put it down. And I was right - I was hooked from the opening lines....

"They found Seth Hubbard in the general area where he had promised to be, though not exactly in the condition expected. He was at the end of a rope, six feet off the ground and twisting slightly in the wind."

It turns out that reclusive Seth was extremely wealthy. And that he changed his will in the days before his death. His new handwritten will lands in the office of Jake Brigance, delivered by mail the day after Seth's death. Hubbard has cut out his children and left the bulk of his estate to his housekeeper of three years - a black woman named Lettie Lang. Jake doesn't know Seth Hubbard but is determined to follow Seth's instructions to the letter of the law.

By doing so, he's in for another fight....

Oh man! I loved it, loved it, loved it!!! Nobody does legal thrillers like Grisham. Really, you don't even need the 'legal' qualifier. Grisham is pure and simple, one heck of a storyteller. Absolutely one of the best. His prose flow seamlessly, drawing the reader ever deeper into the story and the town of Clanton. I could picture myself sitting at the diner, with Dell pouring coffee, and listening to the latest gossip.

The characters are really well drawn. Jake is extremely likable, principled and the kind of lawyer you'd want in your corner. I also quite enjoy the other supporting legal players - drunken, but canny Lucien Wilbanks, the pronouncements of Harry Rex and the astuteness of Sheriff Ozzie Walls.

Grisham brings his setting to life - the town, culture, attitudes and more are all detailed and benefit greatly from the author's own past. The legal machinations employed are just as detailed (and interesting) Grisham both grew up in the South and practiced law in Mississippi.

The plotting is excellent, the tension palpable and the journey to the final pages and reveal is oh so good. Absolutely addictive reading, Stick this one in your own stocking - five stars for sure!
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LibraryThing member Mathenam
This is a typical John Grisham book, and I don't mean that in a bad way. He's an excellent story teller. However, this one was very heavy on the legal talk, and lots of scenes of lawyers sitting in a diner. I thought this book was very predictable. The author seemed to "drop hints" repeatedly, and
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then chapters later, would go over it again, just in case you didn't catch it the first time. I skimmed much of the last half of the book because the rehashing and retelling just got to be too much for me. The ending was predictable, so it wasn't much of a payoff for sticking with the book. Also, I'm not sure why this was billed as a sequel to "A Time to Kill." It's nothing about the Hailey family, only Jake, the lawyer who defended Hailey in "A Time to Kill."
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LibraryThing member khiemstra631
Sycamore Row is Grisham at his best. While it is a sequel to A Time to Kill, there is no need to read that work in order to enjoy this one. Sycamore Row's plot revolves around a millionaire businessman who kills himself, leaving behind a handwritten will that supercedes one prepared by a law firm.
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The last will left almost everything to his housekeeper, while the former left his money to his children. The kids gear up to fight the handwritten will, and lawyer Jake Brigance takes on the housekeeper's case. The ensuing investigation and trial form the rest of the book's plot along with some really startling twists along the way. Great fun!
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LibraryThing member Judiex
On October 1, 1988, Seth Hubbard, a wealthy man dying from lung cancer, hand wrote a will and mailed it to Jake Brigance, a lawyer he didn’t know. The next day, he went to church, called an employee to meet him at his house at 2 p.m., wrote a note which he left on a table, walked to a sycamore
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tree near his home and hung himself. His employee found his body.
The note said he was responsible for his death and gave instructions for his funeral. The will renounced his previous will, and cut out any inheritance for his children, grandchildren, or ex-wives. It left ninety percent to the black woman who had been his housekeeper, then cook and attendant for the past three years. It also left five percent to his brother with whom he had had no contact for many years. He didn’t even know if he was still alive. It stated , “As children, he and I witnessed something no human should ever see, and Ancil was forever traumatized.”
According to the lawyer’s instructions, the will was not revealed until after the funeral. By that time his two children and their families were busily making plans on how to spend their money and had hired lawyers to handle the probate process. When they found out about the new will, they were furious and determined to prove it was not valid, especially when they learned the estate was worth about $24 million. Their lawyers cite the medication he was taking, the lack of any protection from paying the full amount of estate taxes, and undue influence as possible reasons that he was not mentally capable of writing the new will.
SYCAMORE ROW follows the actions of all the lawyers as well as the people who inherited the money and who were left out. Race relations play role. It is not a pretty picture. As one of the lawyers stated, “Trials are not about fairness....Trials are about winning.”
About half way through SYCAMORE ROW, Grisham provides a hint of why Hubbard did what he did but the full details don’t come out until the end of the book. Like any trip, even though you know the destination, the journey proves very interesting. While I haven’t read all of John Grisham books, this one is a lively courtroom drama. Jake frequently refers to a previous case which may have been in a previous book, which I hadn’t read. It did not detract from the story but was mentioned too many times.
Like all of Grisham’s books, I’m sure this will be a best seller. Readers will not be disappointed.
WARNING: Don’t read the flyleaf. One sentence is a spoile
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LibraryThing member leduck
A fast-paced and engaging read, Sycamore Row is the sequel to John Grisham's A Time to Kill; his first novel. In Sycamore Row, lawyer Jake Brigance receives a letter from a well-do-do white business man who has killed himself, leaving the majority of estate to his black housekeeper, and
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disinheriting his adult children. He engaged Brigance to defend his will, correctly believing that it will be challenged.

Mr. Grisham's novel is a fast-paced and very engaging read that revisits some of the characters we met during A Time to Kill. It also has the advantage of avoiding the trap that some of his earlier work fell into, in which the author appears to write himself into a corner and resolves the plot with very unlikely devices.

The weakness of this novel is a very predictable and at times contrived plot. There were very few surprises, but getting there was a good deal of fun.
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LibraryThing member cacky
I enjoyed returning to Clanton MS. I enjoyed re-visiting some of the major characters and meeting new ones. Wish that Grisham had spent less time in Jake's office and more time on some ancillary threads - how did they track down Ancil? What was it like in Lettie's home? I had hoped it stood along
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side A Time To Kill, it didn't but was still an enjoyable read.
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LibraryThing member terran
If you’re like me and read “A Time to Burn” soon after it first came out, it won’t matter that you remember only the broad plot of the book. “Sycamore Row” stands on its own quite well. If, like me, you enjoy reading about the minutiae of trials, preparation, and court strategy, you
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will enjoy the book. Jake Brigance defends a will left by a man who hung himself, leaving most of his estate to his black housekeeper. The action takes place in 1989, but I was somewhat surprised at the level of racial injustice and lack of social integration during that period. I was also annoyed by the portrayal of Jake’s relationship with his wife, who seemed to be described most often based on her beauty. Still and all, a great read.
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LibraryThing member she_climber
Grisham learned how to end a story! I really loved this book, as I have almost all of Grisham's books, I just hate that his endings have always felt like walking into a brick wall. I don't know what it is about this author that he can just spin a story and build characters unlike anyone else. If he
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keeps this up, I am back in his camp 100%. The only reason this book didn't get the full 5 stars was that there was so much foreshadowing as to the ending that there was no surprise to it.
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LibraryThing member readyreader
John Grisham is a great storyteller. He never gets stale. Lots of details in this one, and a little long in the courtroom scenes, but a good read.
LibraryThing member DrApple
Jake Brigance is back but the case he's battling is a lot less riveting than A Time to KIll. The "sur[prise" ending is apparent long before the end.
LibraryThing member teeth
Another great John Grisham Novel. Jack Brigance, an atoorneyin Misssissippi is asked tocarry out the will of amulti-millionaire. The will replaces a former willthat givess all his money to his children and bequeves 90% of his millions to his black housekeeper.
LibraryThing member creighley
Jake Brigance is back in the court room again, only this time he is not defending a black man who killed white men. He is trying to litigate a hand written will written by the irascible millionaire, Seth Hubbard. He has purposefully left out his children and grandchildren and given 90% of his
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estate to his black caregiver. The question is why as the various factions meet in court to "duke" it out.
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LibraryThing member debrarbell
I always look forward to John Grisham books, always interesting, fast paced and hard to set aside! Never a disappointment!
LibraryThing member pinkcrayon99
The South is charmingly evil. Trees tend to rival guns with taking lives. There are secrets that drive some southern family members to the grave or away from the South forever.

History can't be erased. The truth is always lying in wait. It is patient. When Seth Hubbard took his life he knew exactly
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where the truth could be found but had to make those left behind search for it. His last will and testament is the catalyst. Lettie Lang, his maid, is the target. There are plenty hyenas, family members and lawyers alike.

If you love the details of the law, southern culture, and history this book will satisfy all your tastes. It was good to revisit with the characters from A Time to Kill. Jake Brigance is still trying to recover after the Hailey verdict even though it is three years later. He continues to possess a fierce heart for justice which is why Seth Hubbard hires him from the grave. Make no mistake, Sycamore Row, is not a sequel to A Time to Kill. Grisham does have a way of making the reader feel at home in Clanton, MS again.

The ending makes this book truly extraordinary. There is some lag in the middle but catching up with old characters makes it worthwhile. Grisham does a great job of showing how money is not always a soothing salve but can actually produce more wounds.
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LibraryThing member JGoto
Another satisfying and entertaining legal thriller from John Grisham.


Audie Award (Finalist — Thriller/Suspense — 2014)
LA Times Book Prize (Finalist — Mystery/Thriller — 2013)




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