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The Testament (1999)

By John Grisham.

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 minions—a message that will touch off a vicious legal battle and transform dozens of lives.

I was skeptic. I thought this might turn to a religious theme... and it did, but it did more than that.

It did so in a way I couldn't criticize. It did so in a way that helped the main character, and the adversaries, and made me sad, and made me question my own faith! Or lack thereof. And made me smile occasionally too, since the protagonist being converted is clearly not your typical Christian or candidate for conversion.

I wonder if the author is either. I wonder if he stepped outside of his comfort zone to get to these issues, and intrinsically explore the theme of faith. Maybe he did; maybe he didn't. Maybe it is propaganda for Christianity - just like so much else is - but at least this one does it right. Because it's about so much more than just that, and there are nuances. There are role models too. You admire the people with faith portrayed here, and I know for certain there are people in the real world just as worthy of being revered. Just look back at Mother Theresa.

The title plays on the testament too. In that it's an actual testament - or a 'holographic will', as they say - I'd never heard that term before. But also the book with the same name. Just like Jake says 'Oh THAT Joseph' when Phil talks of being a carpenter, just like that one dude with that one name... it's comical sometimes. It's lighthearted. And then it's suddenly inexplicably and immensly sad, and I have to fight to keep back tears. It moves you.

That's when you know it's a good book isn't it? This is definitely one of those.

John Grisham has a great way not just with words but with characters too, and making gaps in long spans of time shrink and seem natural, making circumstances tie together; building something that initially seems frail and jagged, but in the end you realize were just puzzle pieces in a bigger whole.

Suddenly you see the big picture. Suddenly everything feels merited. You no longer have a conflict of both irritation and cheer for the main character, but a deeper understanding. And although it seems there was so much more to be said. For Jevy, and for his kids, and the heirs, and their future... it feels like it's better he didn't say too much after all.

And it WAS 500 pages, no less. Didn't feel like more than 300. Google Books says 420 but... I read the translated version.

Apparently it's even longer. I don't mind that at all.

 rated 5/5: friggin awesome


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