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June Novel – The Confession

from the author’s website at

I would like to start by first saying…what the F**K is wrong with Texas???

Okay, now let’s begin.

In my 40 by 40 quest to read a novel per month, I almost didn’t make it for June.  I said almost.  I just finished John Grisham’s novel The Confession on Thursday night.  This was my third time reading a Grisham novel…the first one I read was the very popular and very entertaining novel The Firm, and the second one I read was the very not-so-popular and somewhat forgettable novel The Street Lawyer.

Karen not only suggested I read The Confession, but she loaned me her copy of the book…which was great because I’ve never been a big fan of buying books. I love libraries and I love the idea of libraries even more. (My very first part-time job as a high school student was in a library, and I’ve been in and around libraries ever since.)

But I digress…

The Confession is a very good story told in a very long 415 pages or so.  The story’s main character is Keith Schroeder, a pastor who leads a Lutheran church in Kansas.  One day, he is visited by a strange man named Travis Boyette who was just paroled from prison.  Travis tells the good Reverend Keith that he is dying from a seriously painful brain tumor and has a confession to get off his chest before he dies.

(Just as an aside…I’m not entirely sure why Travis chose Keith to confess to rather than a Catholic priest like most criminals in novels and movies. Perhaps Travis simply walked to a church closest to the halfway house he had been assigned to. Or perhaps he didn’t read much and didn’t know that in most stories, the criminals who confess visit Catholic churches instead of Lutheran churches.  Who knows.)

But I digress…

Travis admitted that, nine years ago in the small town of Slone, Texas, he raped, abducted, and killed a high school cheerleader named Nicole Yarber.  The Texas justice system, instead, arrested and convicted one of Nicole’s classmates for the murder…a talented high school running back named Donté Drumm.  Travis, now paroled from prison for an unrelated crime, recently caught the news of Donté’s impending execution (just days away), and felt motivated to do something about it.

Grisham makes it crystal clear for the reader that Donté is innocent.  He was a victim of an inept and corrupt system, including a forced false confession followed by Donté’s immediate recantation, an all-white jury for a trial that took place a mere 45 minutes outside of Slone,  the prosecutor who was having an affair with the judge, a governor who was hell-bent on getting re-elected, a jealous knucklehead high school classmate who led police to believe that Donte killed Nicole because her parents wouldn’t take kindly to her dating a black kid, and (believe it or not), all of this with no sign of the victim’s body.  That’s right, Donté was going to be executed for the murder of a girl that no one could find.

The best thing about Grisham’s writing is his ability to craft memorable and true-to-life characters with authentic-sounding dialogue.  In the first half of the novel, there’s a whole lot of annoying (but realistic) back and forth between Travis and Keith about going to Slone and confessing the crime to the authorities.  In execution situations like these, the lawyers and the police are often bombarded with crazy people who claim to be the true killer.  Keith and Travis knew they would probably have an uphill battle trying to convince the authorities that they were executing the wrong person, and so they realize that the only way to free Donté was to lead the authorities to the buried body of Nicole Yarber.

Without going into too much detail here, Keith eventually becomes involved (physically and emotionally) with Donté’s exoneration.  Keith eventually convinces Travis to head to Slone, Texas in an attempt to stop the execution.  (By the way…John Grisham incorrectly spelled the city of Slone on his own website description of the novel.  Or maybe he incorrectly spelled the city of Sloan in his novel.  You see, throughout the novel, the city is spelled Slone, even though the actual real life city in Texas is Sloan.  I wonder if that was a deliberate re-spelling…and if so, what’s the purpose?  Why not just creatively spell all of the other places in the novel…like Kansass or Texass or Californyass?)

But I digress…

John Grisham knew what he was doing by having the story take place in the city of Slone, Texas.  In fact, I think Grisham wanted to make the point that Donté Drumm’s conviction occurred precisely because it happened in Texas.  Plain and simple.  The story had to take place in Texas for it to be somewhat believable because of the state’s reputation for playing fast and loose with the death penalty.

Texas justice style.

And Grisham plays up plenty of these Texas stereotypes throughout the novel.  All of the white men in Grisham’s Texas (not some, but all) carry guns in their trucks.  And they all support the death penalty.

Texas justice style.

And all of them drive trucks (either Chevys or Fords).  In fact, the only times Grisham mentioned another type of vehicle of any kind were in the descriptions of police cars, or the renovated van-turned-mobile office that belonged to Donté’s lawyer, or Keith’s tired old Subaru (but he drives a Subaru because he’s a Lutheran pastor from Kansas).

But I digress…

The Confession was less of a thriller and more of a drama, and much of the ending could be deduced earlier in the novel.  But overall, the story was a good one, there’s no doubt that Grisham is a strong writer, and even though this was a story of fiction, it scared me enough to know that I ain’t going back to Texas.

But I digress…


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This entry was posted on June 30, 2012 by in 40 by 40, Book Reviews and tagged , , , , .

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