Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A Lesson Before Dying (Gaines) - Powerful

Another school book under my belt - a good one.

Many years my city has a "If All of Rochester Reads the Same Book" program. A few years back, the book was A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest Gaines. When I was looking at the reading list I inherited for the senior English class I chose this book to replace a book I thought was not appropriate.

I had partly read it years ago and thought well of it. I have now finished it

I'm glad I picked it.

The book is about post-world War II Louisiana. A black man is found guilty of murder in connection with the death of a white shop owner. He is sentenced to death. During the trial he is likened to a hog. His grandmother is offended by that, and wants him to die with dignity, so she recruits the teacher in the black school to visit him and help him to die as a man.

The "Lesson" of the title is not just the one the convicted man learns - it's the lesson the teacher has to learn.

It's a compelling story. The journal the convicted man keeps at the request of the teacher is particularly affecting.

Although about a tragic subject, it ultimately has a positive message.

There's only one "nudity" section I'm a little uneasy about, but it's better than what was on the list originally (a woman who deserts her family, an affair, and an apparent suicide - great reading for a Catholic high school!).

This is the second best book I've read this summer.

Pax et bonum

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