Louise's Reviews > A Lesson Before Dying

A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines
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's review
Apr 06, 09

bookshelves: fiction
Read in October, 2003

I was deeply engrossed by this story. Jefferson, a young black man is sentenced to death. While waiting his executioners, he is visited by the towns teacher, Grant Wiggins. Jefferson is solitary, mute and engrossed in his own thoughts during Grant's visits. Through persistance, feeling and the need to learn about life and death, Grant and Jefferson finally form a bond that no one else was able to attain.

From the back cover:

"A Lesson Before Dying" is set in a small Cajun community in the late 1940's. Jefferson, a young black man, is an unwitting party to a liquor store shootout 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 informed his previous, highly praised works of fiction."

I found this to be a deeply moving and thought provoking novel!!


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