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Thursday, February 17, 2005

The Casual Critic — John Grisham's Bleachers

Reading John Grisham's Bleachers, I couldn't help but think the guy got sick of hearing about how he never wrote about anything except lawyers. The problem is that when he writes about lawyers most of us feel like we're getting a glimpse into an intriguing world we know little about. That strength doesn't exist for Bleachers, which seemed like an attempt at a character-driven story about a character readers never get the chance to care a whole hell of a lot about.

Neely Crenshaw returns to the small town of Messina where he grew up and starred as a high school quarterback to take part in the town-wide vigil in the dying days of legendary coach Eddie Rake. The football-crazed town revolves around the Friday night games at the high school, and Rake's success had made him the most powerful figure in town. Adored and, at the same time hated, by his former players, Rake worked them into the ground. His career, though not his legend, finally ended when he literally worked one player to death.

Grisham seemed to have selling the movie rights in mind when he wrote this. One particular chapter finds the former players listening to the recording of the play-by-play of Messina's greatest comeback—which was also the scene of the team's darkest secret. While it no doubt could have made some decent film work, reading large chunks of play-by-play of a game in which the outcome is already known produced less than interesting reading. Besides, the secret wasn't all that dark or hard to figure out.

There's just too many cliches weighing down this rather short read. A coach's tough love going too far, the quarterback having dumped his nice girlfriend for the local slut, the previously mentioned secret, and more get crammed in. There are the beginnings of some decent characters, but there's just not enough to make the reader truly care.

It's brevity ultimately saves it from hitting "skip it" on The Casual Critic's scale, but barely. Instead, Instead, I hesitantly suggest that you read it for fun while looking for something better.


  1. I have just recently finishes the book Bleachers. I am in high school and our football team won a state chanpionship a little while back and the book reminds me so much of our school. And Coach Eddie Rake reminds me a lot of our football coach...Me and my friends really loved the book. I guess because we are still in school and it reminded us of our high school and coach!!!!!


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