A Lesson Before Dying

A Lesson Before Dying
Publisher
Age Range
14+
Release Date
January 01, 1994
ISBN
185242723X
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A Lesson Before Dying, is set in a small Cajun community in the late 1940s. Jefferson, a young black man, is an unwitting party to a liquor store shoot out in which three men are killed; the only survivor, he is convicted of murder and sentenced to death. Grant Wiggins, who left his hometown for the university, has returned to the plantation school to teach. As he struggles with his decision whether to stay or escape to another state, his aunt and Jefferson's godmother persuade him to visit Jefferson in his cell and impart his learning and his pride to Jefferson before his death. In the end, the two men forge a bond as they both come to understand the simple heroism of resisting—and defying—the expected.

Ernest J. Gaines brings to this novel the same rich sense of place, the same deep understanding of the human psyche, and the same compassion for a people and their struggle that have unformed his previous, highly praised works of fiction.

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Good Book
Overall rating
 
4.0
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4.0
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0.0
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0.0
Reader reviewed by caraismycat

This book is written about Jefferson (a black man) who is in jail for being at the scene of a crime that killed a white man. and Grant who will be Jeffersons "teacher" to show him that he is a man before he is put to death.
This book was my summer reading book so i started it with some worries because summer reading books are not very good. This is an exception. This book was amazing. It was well written even though it was written a long time ago. Even though you know that Jefferson will die (as per his punishment) you really grow attached and in the end you hope that something will happen that will make him not die.
I would recomend this book to anyone looking for a classic book that isnt boring. Its good for everyone.
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Bummer of a Book
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Reader reviewed by Lippincote

I expected to like or even love this book, despite it being an Oprah selection. (Oprah chooses such miserable books!) However, it totally lived up to her standards, and was utterly depressing.

A young, mentally slow, black man is to be executed for a crime he did not commit. A teacher in the district is enlisted by the prisoner's family to help him through this travesty of justice 'with dignity'.

Sadly, I really disliked the teacher, Grant Wiggins, who came across as a pompous bore. Wiggins is an articulate, well educated man who does not lack the price of a ticket out of Louisiana, but resists all opportunities to leave. He stays -'eaten up by resentment', angry, miserable and largely unproductive, when all the time he has the ability to free himself from the mire.

Given that Wiggins is the narrator of the book, and his attitude pervades the whole story, I found myself also stuck in the mire. The social injustice issues had me raving in impotent fury, Grant Wiggins had me yelling - Just shut up and DO something! - and all the time the book is limping on to its inevitable, and truly horrible, conclusion.

I accept that I am alone in this opinion. The book is considered a masterpiece and recommended as a must read for older students. You can't win them all :)
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