For many years, John Grisham has been one of my favorite living authors. Born on February 8, 1955, Grisham is a retired attorney, an ex-politician, and a novelist best known for his works of modern legal drama. Publishers Weekly described Grisham as “the bestselling novelist of the 90s,” selling 60,742,289 copies. Grisham is one of few authors, including Tom Clancy, who have sold two million copies on a first printing. His novel The Pelican Brief sold over eleven million copies just in North America. There is no other person who has authored a number one best-selling novel of the year for seven consecutive years (1994-2,000).
Many people do not realize that Grisham is a committed Christian who has spent time in mission service in Brazil. “I started going out in 1993 with a church group from my home church in Oxford, Mississippi,” he told USA Today. “We went down there for the purpose of constructing a church in this little town sort of in the outback and it was such a rewarding experience that I’ve done it several times since.”
With over 110 million books sold, John Grisham and his wife, Renee, “measure the success of the year on how much we give away,” Grisham told USA Today. They have set up a foundation to oversee their giving — “the bulk of it goes to church and related activities” — to which “the kids have said, ‘Look, don’t give it all away.'”
Grisham now wishes “I’d joined the Peace Corps … for a couple years out of college.” He added, “As my years go by, I think I’ll spend more and more time doing … mission work, probably in Brazil.”
Fittingly, Grisham in his book ‘The Testament’ makes a heroine of an illegitimate daughter Rachel Lane, an unknown missionary in the deepest jungles of Brazil. Troy Phelan, the 10th-richest man in America, outrages all his greedy family by giving Rachel his $11 billion fortune. Ironically, Rachel leads a simple life and couldn’t care less about money. The interaction between Nate O’Riley the recovering alcoholic lawyer and Rachel Lane reveals the depth of Grisham’s spiritual convictions.
“Nate closed his eyes … and called God’s name. God was waiting. … In one glorious acknowledgment of failure, he laid himself bare before God. He held nothing back. He unloaded enough baggage to crush any three men. … ‘I’m sorry,’ he whispered to God. ‘Please help me.’ As quickly as the fever had left his body, he felt the baggage leave his soul. With one gentle brush of the hand, his slate had been wiped clean.”
“Nate tried power and women and booze and drugs and the fast life and all the good things that money can buy. He’s crashed and burned four times in 10 years and it’s obvious he can’t save himself. I wanted to take a guy like that and sort of follow him on a kind of spiritual journey, his quest for a spiritual cure. … I was challenged by the goal of seeing if I could make such a spiritual journey work in a popular novel, in commercial fiction.”
I thank God for John Grisham and other writers who encourage us to think, to stretch, and to explore the meaning of life.
The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, BSW, MDiv, DMin
-previously published in the Deep Cove Crier
-award-winning author of the book Battle for the Soul of Canada
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