Tag Archives: Book: A Lesson Before Dying

Throwback Thursday: A Lesson Before Dying By Ernest Gaines

Throwback Thursday is a weekly meme hosted by The Housework Can Wait and Never Too Fond of Books! It’s the nature of book blogging to focus mainly on new releases, but there are thousands of great books out there that haven’t seen the “New Releases” shelf in years. Through Throwback Thursdays THCW and NTFB hope to be able to bring attention to some older titles that may not be at the top of the current bestseller list, but still deserve a spot in your To-Be-Read pile.

A Lesson Before DyingThis week’s Throwback Thursday book is A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines.

Summary from Amazon:  A Lesson Before Dying, is set in a small Cajun community in the late 1940s.  Jefferson, a young black man, is an unwitting party to a liquor store shoot out 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.

Why You Should Read This Book:  This book is certainly not my usual pick for a Throwback Thursday, but it’s one I was discussing with a friend recently and just wanted to share it with as many people as possible.

This was on the syllabus in my sophomore English class and it is one of the only assigned books that I now list among my favorites. This book is not an easy or light-hearted read; It’s dark, difficult, gritty and deeply sad. It contains a powerful and engaging lesson through a very vivid portrayal of 1940’s Southern racial injustice in a small Louisiana town.

The story is so incredibly moving that it keeps you turning pages long after you should have gone to sleep. It allows you to connect with Grant and Jefferson in a way that you probably didn’t think was possible when you first cracked open it’s spine. A Lesson Before Dying is, in my opinion, Ernest Gaines’ best work and one that you would be doing yourself a disservice if you never read.

Just, maybe make sure you have some tissues and chocolate handy.


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