The Testament

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Overview

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

In a plush Virginia office, a rich, angry old man is furiously rewriting his will. With his death just hours away, Troy Phelan wants to send a message to his children, his ex-wives, and his minions—a message that will touch off a vicious legal battle and transform dozens of lives. Because Troy Phelan’s new will names a sole surprise heir to his eleven-billion-dollar fortune: a mysterious woman named Rachel Lane, a ...

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The Testament: A Novel

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Overview

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

In a plush Virginia office, a rich, angry old man is furiously rewriting his will. With his death just hours away, Troy Phelan wants to send a message to his children, his ex-wives, and his minions—a message that will touch off a vicious legal battle and transform dozens of lives. Because Troy Phelan’s new will names a sole surprise heir to his eleven-billion-dollar fortune: a mysterious woman named Rachel Lane, a missionary living deep in the jungles of Brazil.

Enter the lawyers. Nate O’Riley is fresh out of rehab, a disgraced corporate attorney handpicked for his last job: to find Rachel Lane at any cost. As Phelan’s family circles like vultures in D.C., Nate goes crashing through the Brazilian jungle, entering a world where money means nothing, where death is just one misstep away, and where a woman—pursued by enemies and friends alike—holds a stunning surprise of her own.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
John Grisham has been delighting readers for years by pitting modern-day Davids against corrupt corporate Goliaths, seasoning his tales with the seedy and amoral actions of unscrupulous lawyers. With The Testament, Grisham delivers top-notch legal suspense once again by pitting that most common of evils -- greed -- against selfless altruism. But this time the result is a surprisingly lustrous literary tapestry interwoven with the legal maneuvering that has long been Grisham's trademark.

Troy Phelan is an eccentric, reclusive, and lonely old man who also happens to be one of the ten wealthiest people in the world. His billions have earned him a lush existence, unlimited power, and the company of a number of willing women. But at the age of 78, Phelan has yet to find true happiness, and he's grown tired of the search. With death just around the corner, Phelan is disgusted and bitter toward his six spoiled and selfish offspring, who see his pending demise as their one-way ticket to life on easy street. Phelan, however, will have the final word, embracing death with the same cruel unpredictability he exercised in life.

Phelan's death, anticipated but still surprising, leaves his greedy children struggling to hide their glee behind a mask of mourning. But when they discover the old man has cut them out of his will, their grief becomes all too real. The crowning blow comes when they discover that Phelan left most of his vast fortune to a woman by the name of Rachel Lane, an illegitimate daughter no one knew existed. To make matters worse, Rachel Lane seems to have disappeared from the face of the earth.

The battle for the Phelan billions begins when the legitimate heirs decide to contest the will, their interests represented by a host of self-serving and unethical lawyers who will stop at nothing to assure that they, too, get their piece of the pie. Troy Phelan's lawyers set out to find Lane, armed only with the knowledge that she is working for a ministry and may be living with a primitive tribe of Indians in the isolated jungles of Brazil. Heading up the search is Nate O'Riley, a successful and ruthless litigator who has paid a high price for his jet-setting lifestyle. After landing in rehab for the fourth time in ten years, O'Riley is anxious to take on the task of finding the world's richest missionary, if for no other reason than to avoid the lure of the life he's trying to escape.

The trip turns into more of an adventure than O'Riley bargained for as he ventures deeper into the Brazilian jungle, dragging his personal demons along for the ride. As the lawyers back home do battle with one another in search of the almighty buck, O'Riley battles nature's capricious fury in his search for Rachel Lane. When O'Riley finally nets his quarry, he finds her in the farthest reaches of the Brazilian jungle among natives who live without any of life's most basic conveniences. At first, O'Riley's only goal is to finish his job and get back home to civilization, but he soon becomes captivated by Lane's peaceful serenity, her simple life, and her total devotion to doing God's work. Even more curious is Lane's adamant refusal to have anything to do with her inheritance. As the Phelan heirs and their scheming lawyers continue their fight back in the States, O'Riley finds himself engaged in his own struggle, one that will ultimately threaten both his life and his soul.

Those who delight in Grisham's classic battles of legal wits won't be disappointed; the backstabbing, underhanded deceits, and conniving manipulations abound. But this time Grisham offers his readers a special gift -- a compelling journey into a world of primitive wisdom, indescribable beauty, and the most treacherous of dangers -- some of which can be found deep within ourselves.

--Beth Amos

From the Publisher
“A compulsory page-turner.”—Newsweek

“Grisham includes his trademark legal wrangling, zippy plot and engaging minor characters. . . . His hordes of fans won’t be disappointed.”—USA Today

“Absorbing . . . The pages fly by.”—Chicago Tribune
 
“Entertaining.”—The New York Times Book Review

Forbes
Full of drama and fast-paced adventure. You can't put it down.
Malcolm Jones
A compulsory page-turner...Abandoning the courtroom for the Brazilian jungle...Grisham can spin an adventure yarn every bit as well as he can craft a legal thriller.
Newsweek
USA Today
John Grisham's best novel in years...Personalmoving...there's a fresh energy and a new element...In factit has one of Grisham's all-time best openings.
Alex Tresniowski
...[A]n irresistible premise that Grisham, as usual, brings to life with engagingly crooked characters and juicy legal twists...
People Magazine
Carol Peace Robins
...Entertaining....But don't expect eloquence.
The New York Times Book Review
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A traditional gangbuster Grisham opening--in which an aged billionaire outfoxes his greedy heirs by signing a bombshell will, then jumps to his death--gives little clue how this seductive tale will develop. The novel also features the usual attorney hero and legal action, but Grisham confounds expectations by sweeping readers into adventure in the Brazilian wetlands and, more urgently, into a man's search for spiritual renewal. Nate O'Riley, 48, is a drunk. He's also a top D.C. attorney who, winding up his fourth rehab stint in 10 years, is asked by his firm to find one Rachel Lane. The illegitimate daughter to whom the firm's client, tycoon Troy Phelan, has left his entire $11 billion fortune, Rachel is a missionary-physician tending Indians somewhere in Brazil's Pantanal region. Nate's experiences there prove nightmarish, including fierce storms, a plane crash, dangerous animals, hunger and, finally, dengue fever, which nearly kills him. But as Grisham crosscuts from Brazil to D.C. and the sleazy machinations of Phelan's other children and their lawyers to negate Phelan's will, readers will wonder which is the real jungle; never has Grisham revealed so nakedly his contempt for the legal profession. What Grisham holds dear is made clear in his unforgettable portrait of Rachel, whose serenity and integrity stun Nate, while inspiring him to forsake forever his lust for booze, power and money and to turn toward God. The message (which isn't entirely new to Grisham; see The Street Lawyer) and the storytelling that conveys it aren't subtle, but Grisham's smart use of the suspense novel to explore questions of being and faith puts him squarely in the footsteps of Dickens and Graham Greene. Sincere, exciting and tinged with wonder, this novel is going to sell like an angel, and deservedly so.
Library Journal
Featuring a billionaire, a litigator straight from rehab, and a woman who works with primitive tribes in Brazil.
Wendy Murray Zoba
The Testament is a quick read, a wild ride, and surprisingly affecting. Its unexpected conclusion leaves the reader reflective.
Books & Culture
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780345531964
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 12/27/2011
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 544
  • Sales rank: 70,409
  • Product dimensions: 7.48 (w) x 4.26 (h) x 1.31 (d)

Meet the Author

John Grisham is the author of twenty-three novels, including, most recently, The Litigators; one work of nonfiction, a collection of stories, and a novel for young readers. He is the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Mississippi Innocence Project at the University of Mississippi School of Law. He lives in Virginia and Mississippi.

Biography

As a young boy in Arkansas, John Grisham dreamed of being a baseball player. Fortunately for his millions of fans, that career didn't pan out. His family moved to Mississippi in 1967, where Grisham eventually received a law degree from Ole Miss and established a practice in Southaven for criminal and civil law. In 1983, Grisham was elected to the Mississippi House of Representatives, where he served until 1990.

While working as an attorney, Grisham witnessed emotional testimony from the case of a young girl's rape. Naturally inquisitive, Grisham's mind started to wander: what if the terrible crime yielded an equally terrible revenge? These questions of right and wrong were the subject of his first novel, A Time to Kill (1988), written in the stolen moments before and between court appearances. The book wasn't widely distributed, but his next title would be the one to bring him to the national spotlight. The day after he finished A Time to Kill, Grisham began work on The Firm (1991), the story of a whiz kid attorney who joins a crooked law firm. The book was an instant hit, spent 47 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list, and was made into a movie starring Tom Cruise.

With the success of The Firm, Grisham resigned from the Mississippi House of Representatives to focus exclusively on his writing. What followed was a string of bestselling legal thrillers that demonstrated the author's uncanny ability to capture the unique drama of the courtroom. Several of his novels were turned into blockbuster movies.

In 1996, Grisham returned to his law practice for one last case, honoring a promise he had made before his retirement. He represented the family of a railroad worker who was killed on the job, the case went to trial, and Grisham won the largest verdict of his career when the family was awarded more than $650,000.

Although he is best known for his legal thrillers, Grisham has ventured outside the genre with several well-received novels (A Painted House, Bleachers, et al) and an earnest and compelling nonfiction account of small-town justice gone terribly wrong (The Innocent Man). The popularity of these stand-alones proves that Grisham is no mere one-trick pony but a gifted writer with real "legs."

Good To Know

A prolific writer, it takes Grisham an average of six months to complete a novel.

Grisham has the right to approve or reject whoever is cast in movies based on his books. He has even written two screenplays himself: Mickey and The Gingerbread Man.

Baseball is one of Grisham's great loves. He serves as the local Little League commissioner and has six baseball diamonds on his property, where he hosts games.

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    1. Hometown:
      Oxford, Mississippi, and Albemarle County, Virginia
    1. Date of Birth:
      February 8, 1955
    2. Place of Birth:
      Jonesboro, Arkansas
    1. Education:
      B.S., Mississippi State, 1977; J.D., University of Mississippi, 1981
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

I sit and stare through the tinted glass walls. On a clear day, I can see the top of the Washington Monument six miles away, but not today. Today is raw and cold, windy and overcast, not a bad day to die. The wind blows the last of the leaves from their branches and scatters them through the parking lot below.

Why I am worried about the pain? What's wrong with a little suffering? I've caused more misery than any ten people.

I push a button and Snead appears. He bows and pushes my wheelchair through the door of my apartment, into the marble foyer, down the marble hall, through another door. We're getting closer, but I feel no anxiety.

I've kept the shrinks waiting for over two hours.

We pass my office and I nod at Nicolette, my latest secretary, a darling young thing I'm quite fond of. Given some time, she might become number four.

But there is no time. Only minutes.

A mob is waiting—packs of lawyers and some psychiatrists who'll determine if I'm in my right mind. They are crowded around a long table in my conference room, and when I enter, their conversation stops immediately and everybody stares. Snead situates me on one side of the table, next to my lawyer, Stafford.

There are cameras pointing in all directions, and the technicians scramble to get them focused. Every whisper, every move, every breath will be recorded because a fortune is at stake.

The last will I signed gave little to my children. Josh Stafford prepared it, as always. I shredded it this morning.

I'm sitting here to prove to the world that I am of sufficient mental capacity to make a new will. Once it is proved, the disposition of my assets cannot be questioned.

Directly across from me are three shrinks—one hired by each family. On folded index cards before them someone has printed their names—Dr. Zadel, Dr. Flowe, Dr. Theishen. I study their eyes and faces. Since I am supposed to appear sane, I must make eye contact.

They expect me to be somewhat loony, but I'm about to eat them for lunch.

Stafford will run the show. When everyone is settled and the cameras are ready, he says, "My name is Josh Stafford, and I'm the attorney for Mr. Troy Phelan, seated here to my right."

I take on the shrinks, one at a time, eye to eye, glare to glare, until each blinks or looks away. All three wear dark suits. Zadel and Flowe have scraggly beards. Theishen has a bow tie and looks no more than thirty. The families were given the right to hire anyone they wanted.

Stafford is talking. "The purpose of this meeting is to have Mr. Phelan examined by a panel of psychiatrists to determine his testamentary capacity. Assuming the panel finds him to be of sound mind, then he intends to sign a will which will dispose of his assets upon his death."

Stafford taps his pencil on a one-inch-thick will lying before us. I'm sure the cameras zoom in for a close-up, and I'm sure the very sight of the document sends shivers up and down the spines of my children and their mothers scattered throughout my building.

They haven't seen the will, nor do they have the right to. A will is a private document revealed only after death. The heirs can only speculate as to what it might contain. My heirs have received hints, little lies I've carefully planted.

They've been led to believe that the bulk of my estate will somehow be divided fairly among the children, with generous gifts to the ex-wives. They know this; they can feel it. They've been praying fervently for this for weeks, even months. This is life and death for them because they're all in debt. The will lying before me is supposed to make them rich and stop the bickering. Stafford prepared it, and in conversations with their lawyers he has, with my permission, painted in broad strokes the supposed contents of the will. Each child will receive something in the range of three hundred to five hundred million, with another fifty million going to each of the three ex-wives. These women were well provided for in the divorces, but that, of course, has been forgotten.

Total gifts to the families of approximately three billion dollars. After the government rakes off several billion the rest will go to charity.

So you can see why they're here, shined, groomed, sober (for the most part), and eagerly watching the monitors and waiting and hoping that I, the old man, can pull this off. I'm sure they've told their shrinks, "Don't be too hard on the old boy. We want him sane."

If everyone is so happy, then why bother with this psychiatric examination? Because I'm gonna screw 'em one last time, and I want to do it right.

The shrinks are my idea, but my children and their lawyers are too slow to realize it.

Zadel goes first. "Mr. Phelan, can you tell us the date, time, and place?"

I feel like a first-grader. I drop my chin to my chest like an imbecile and ponder the question long enough to make them ease to the edge of their seats and whisper, "Come on, you crazy old bastard. Surely you know what day it is."

"Monday," I say softly. "Monday, December 9, 1996. The place is my office."

"The time?"

"About two-thirty in the afternoon," I say. I don't wear a watch.

"And where is your office?"

"McLean, Virginia."

Flowe leans into his microphone. "Can you state the names and birthdates of your children?"

"No. The names, maybe, but not the birthdates."

"Okay, give us the names."

I take my time. It's too early to be sharp. I want them to sweat. "Troy Phelan, Jr., Rex, Libbigail, Mary Ross, Geena, and Ramble." I utter these as if they're painful to even think about.

Flowe is allowed a follow-up. "And there was a seventh child, right?"

"Right."

"Do you remember his name?"

"Rocky."

"And what happened to him?"

"He was killed in an auto accident." I sit straight in my wheelchair, head high, eyes darting from one shrink to the next, projecting pure sanity for the cameras. I'm sure my children and my ex-wives are proud of me, watching the monitors in their little groups, squeezing the hands of their current spouses, and smiling at their hungry lawyers because old Troy so far has handled the preliminaries.

My voice may be low and hollow, and I may look like a nut with my white silk robe, shriveled face, and green turban, but I've answered their questions.

Come on, old boy, they're pleading.

Theishen asks, "What is your current physical condition?"

"I've felt better."

"It's rumored you have a cancerous tumor."

Get right to the point, don't you?

"I thought this was a mental exam," I say, glancing at Stafford, who can't suppress a smile. But the rules allow any question. This is not a courtroom.

"It is," Theishen says politely. "But every question is relevant."

"I see."

"Will you answer the question?"

"About what?"

"About the tumor."

"Sure. It's in my head, the size of a golf ball, growing every day, inoperable, and my doctor says I won't last three months."

I can almost hear the champagne corks popping below me. The tumor has been confirmed!

"Are you, at this moment, under the influence of any medication, drug, or alcohol?"

"No."

"Do you have in your possession any type of medication to relieve pain?"

"Not yet."

Back to Zadel: "Mr. Phelan, three months ago Forbes magazine listed your net worth at eight billion dollars. Is that a close estimate?"

"Since when is Forbes known for its accuracy?"

"So it's not accurate?"

"It's between eleven and eleven and a half, depending on the markets." I say this very slowly, but my words are sharp, my voice carries authority. No one doubts the size of my fortune.

Flowe decides to pursue the money. "Mr. Phelan, can you describe, in general, the organization of your corporate holdings?"

"I can, yes."

"Will you?"

"I suppose." I pause and let them sweat. Stafford assured me I do not have to divulge private information here. Just give them an overall picture, he said.

"The Phelan Group is a private corporation which owns seventy different companies, a few of which are publicly traded."

"How much of The Phelan Group do you own?"

"About ninety-seven percent. The rest is held by a handful of employees."

Theishen joins in the hunt. It didn't take long to focus on the gold. "Mr. Phelan, does your company hold an interest in Spin Computer?"

"Yes," I answer slowly, trying to place Spin Computer in my corporate jungle.

"How much do you own?"

"Eighty percent."

"And Spin Computer is a public company?"

"That's right."

Theishen fiddles with a pile of official-looking documents, and I can see from here that he has the company's annual report and quarterly statements, things any semiliterate college student could obtain. "When did you purchase Spin?" he asks.

"About four years ago."

"How much did you pay?"

"Twenty bucks a share, a total of three hundred million." I want to answer these questions more slowly, but I can't help myself. I stare holes through Theishen, anxious for the next one.

"And what's it worth now?" he asks.

"Well, it closed yesterday at forty-three and a half, down a point. The stock has split twice since I bought it, so the investment is now worth around eight-fifty."

"Eight hundred and fifty million?"

"That's correct."

The examination is basically over at this point. If my mental capacity can comprehend yesterday's closing stock prices, then my adversaries are certainly satisfied. I can almost see their goofy smiles. I can almost hear their muted hoorahs. Atta boy, Troy. Give 'em hell.

Zadel wants history. It's an effort to test the bounds of my memory. "Mr. Phelan, where were you born?"

"Montclair, New Jersey."

"When?"

"May 12, 1918."

"What was your mother's maiden name?"

"Shaw."

"When did she die?"

"Two days before Pearl Harbor."

"And your father?"

"What about him?"

"When did he die?"

"I don't know. He disappeared when I was a kid."

Zadel looks at Flowe, who's got questions packed together on a notepad. Flowe asks, "Who is your youngest daughter?"

"Which family?"

"Uh, the first one."

"That would be Mary Ross."

"Right—"

"Of course it's right."

"Where did she go to college?"

"Tulane, in New Orleans."

"What did she study?"

"Something medieval. Then she married badly, like the rest of them. I guess they inherited that talent from me." I can see them stiffen and bristle. And I can almost see the lawyers and the current live-ins and/or spouses hide little smiles because no one can argue the fact that I did indeed marry badly.

And I reproduced even more miserably.

Flowe is suddenly finished for this round. Theishen is enamored with the money. He asks, "Do you own a controlling interest in MountainCom?"

"Yes, I'm sure it's right there in your stack of paperwork. It's a public company."

"What was your initial investment?"

"Around eighteen a share, for ten million shares."

"And now it—"

"It closed yesterday at twenty-one a share. A swap and a split in the past six years and the holding is now worth about four hundred million. Does that answer your question?"

"Yes, I believe it does. How many public companies do you control?"

"Five."

Flowe glances at Zadel, and I'm wondering how much longer this will take. I'm suddenly tired.

"Any more questions?" Stafford asks. We are not going to press them because we want them completely satisfied.

Zadel asks, "Do you intend to sign a new will today?"

"Yes, that is my intent."

"Is that the will lying on the table there before you?"

"It is."

"Does that will give a substantial portion of your assets to your children?"

"It does."

"Are you prepared to sign the will at this time?"

"I am."

Zadel carefully places his pen on the table, folds his hands thoughtfully, and looks at Stafford. "In my opinion, Mr. Phelan has sufficient testamentary capacity at this time to dispose of his assets." He pronounces this with great weight, as if my performance had them hanging in limbo.

The other two are quick to rush in. "I have no doubt as to the soundness of his mind," Flowe says to Stafford. "He seems incredibly sharp to me."

"No doubt?" Stafford asks.

"None whatsoever."

"Dr. Theishen?"

"Let's not kid ourselves. Mr. Phelan knows exactly what he's doing. His mind is much quicker than ours."

Oh, thank you. That means so much to me. You're a bunch of shrinks struggling to make a hundred thousand a year. I've made billions, yet you pat me on the head and tell me how smart I am.

"So it's unanimous?" Stafford says.

"Yes. Absolutely." They can't nod their heads fast enough.

Stafford slides the will to me and hands me a pen. I say, "This is the last will and testament of Troy L. Phelan, revoking all former wills and codicils." It's ninety pages long, prepared by Stafford and someone in his firm. I understand the concept, but the actual print eludes me. I haven't read it, nor shall I. I flip to the back, scrawl a name no one can read, then place my hands on top of it for the time being.

It'll never be seen by the vultures.

"Meeting's adjourned," Stafford says, and everyone quickly packs. Per my instructions, the three families are hurried from their respective rooms and asked to leave the building.

One camera remains focused on me, its images going nowhere but the archives. The lawyers and psychiatrists leave in a rush. I tell Snead to take a seat at the table. Stafford and one of his partners, Durban, remain in the room, also seated. When we are alone, I reach under the edge of my robe and produce an envelope, which I open. I remove from it three pages of yellow legal paper and place them before me on the table.

Only seconds away now, and a faint ripple of fear goes through me. This will take more strength than I've mustered in weeks.

Stafford, Durban, and Snead stare at the sheets of yellow paper, thoroughly bewildered.

"This is my testament," I announce, taking a pen. "A holographic will, every word written by me, just a few hours ago. Dated today, and now signed today." I scrawl my name again. Stafford is too stunned to react.

"It revokes all former wills, including the one I signed less than five minutes ago." I refold the papers and place them in the envelope.

I grit my teeth and remind myself of how badly I want to die.

I slide the envelope across the table to Stafford, and at the same instant I rise from my wheelchair. My legs are shaking. My heart is pounding. Just seconds now. Surely I'll be dead before I land.

"Hey!" someone shouts, Snead I think. But I'm moving away from them.

The lame man walks, almost runs, past the row of leather chairs, past one of my portraits, a bad one commissioned by a wife, past everything, to the sliding doors, which are unlocked. I know because I rehearsed this just hours ago.

"Stop!" someone yells, and they're moving behind me. No one has seen me walk in a year. I grab the handle and open the door. The air is bitterly cold. I step barefoot onto the narrow terrace which borders my top floor. Without looking below, I lunge over the railing.

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Interviews & Essays

An Exclusive Q&A with John Grisham

John Grisham, the phenomenal bestselling author who consistently transforms a day in court into an unforgettable, thriller-lovin' experience, took some time to answer a few of our questions about his new novel, HOLLYWOOD, and his son's Little League baseball team.

barnesandnoble.com: Think back to when you first began A Time to Kill. How does your approach to writing differ now? How is it the same?

John Grisham: A Time to Kill was written over a three-year period with little hopes of getting it published. Now, a book takes six months, and I'm reasonably confident it will get published. Other than that, little has changed. I start with a story, a plot, something that will turn the pages and make people lose sleep and call in sick to work.

bn: Do you set different goals for each of your novels? What criteria do you use to judge your own work?

JG: My goal is to entertain my readers, and, at the same time, make them think about certain issues. Not all the books are issue-driven, but it's nice when a story like The Street Lawyer can, if only for a short while, make people pause and at least think about the homeless.

I judge my books before they are written. The story has to work, or I move on to something else. I outline extensively, so by the time I write chapter one I know the reader is hooked for the ride.

bn: How did your Little League team do last season? Still planning on coaching in 1999?

JG: In 1998, for the first time ever, my son's team won the championship. It was thrilling, unforgettable. Trouble was, I wasn't the coach. They ran me out of the dugout two years ago.

Instead, I'm now the Commissioner. It's a full-time job and I'm having a blast.

bn: What's your impression of the relationship between book publishing and Hollywood? How well do you feel Hollywood has portrayed your novels on the silver screen? Do you have a personal favorite?

JG: I've been very lucky in my dealings with Hollywood. Six of my books have been adapted, and almost all were enjoyable films. "The Rainmaker" was the best adaptation.

bn: Where will you be on New Year's Eve, 1999?

JG: The party's already planned. We'll be at home, here in Virginia, with friends. If the world doesn't end, then the next day we'll have a paintball war.

bn: Do you make a point to watch either of David E. Kelley's law dramas, "Ally McBeal" or "The Practice"? What do you think of them?

JG: Sorry, you're talking to the wrong person. I've seen neither show. I simply don't watch TV.

bn: Over the holidays, countless people must have asked you to describe The Testament. What word(s) did you find yourself using most frequently when answering this question?

JG: I tell people that it's a book about lawyers -- thought I'd try something different. It's a lame joke and usually good for a brief chuckle.

I don't describe my books before they're published. The plots are involved, and it would take me 20 minutes to lay the groundwork. So I demur with something banal like, "Another juicy lawyer tale," or "It's about dead lawyers. You'll love it!"

bn: Which thriller writers do you like reading? What other kinds of reading do you enjoy?

JG: John Le Carré, Robert Ludlum. I don't read a lot of thrillers. My favorite living writers are William Styron, Pat Conroy, John Le Carré, Ian McEwan, Tom Wolfe.

bn: Your new novel is set partly in Brazil; what is it about Brazil that intrigues you?

JG: I am fascinated with Brazil. It's a big, sprawling semideveloped country with more diversity than our own. The people are friendly and laid-back. I've been in São Paulo with 25 million others, and was awestruck by the enormity of the place. And I've been in the Pantanal, where life hasn't changed in the last hundred years.

I try to go at least once a year.

bn: It is 2 o'clock in the morning, and you are wide awake. What do you do to either get back to sleep or while away the time?

JG: I read Shakespeare. It puts me to sleep faster than strong tranquilizers.

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 443 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 18, 2010

    Another Success

    John Grisham has done it again. He has created yet another exhilarating novel that will keep you on our feet from cover to cover. The Testament proves that Grisham is still among the best authors of legal thrillers, having a well-balanced plot that combines adventures and politics. After the multibillionaire Troy Phelan commits suicide, everybody is aching to know who will become the heir of his great fortune. The old man lived by himself, and the tough world of business had taught him to love nobody. When his handwritten, improvised will is read out loud to the public, the mystery is revealed. Troy Phelan decided to leave the entirety of his assets to an illegitimate, completely unknown daughter living as a missionary with a barbaric tribe in Brazil. Now it is up to the lawyer Nathan O'Riley to travel into the wilderness of South America and find the woman that has just inherited eleven billon dollars. Nate must trudge through swamps, storms, rainforests, and even malaria so that the Phelan wealth ends up with its rightful owner, and not the hands of other greedy, malicious people pursuing it.
    Truly, this piece is a literary work of art. IT is among the best thrillers out there, putting up a fair fight to best-selling novels like The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown, and The Husband, by Dean Koontz. It realistically depicts the world of law and finance, giving the reader tremendous insight of how the worlds of politics and business are so intricately intertwined, The novel is not only fast-paced and engaging, but also profound and critical, reflecting many flaws present in modern society. Very much like in Kane and Abel, by Jeffrey Archer, The Testament realistically depicts the extent to which money can influence an individual's character, as well as the mortal consequences of alcohol and drug addictions. Without a doubt, this New York Times Bestseller can quench the thirst of all those adrenaline addicts looking for a Grisham page-turner.
    Like all novels, however, The Testament is most definitely not recommendable to all audiences. Those who have extensive background knowledge on other books by John Grisham can find this literary piece to be very similar to his other works, like The Pelican Brief. Even though The Testament takes place in an exotic environment, it still revolves around the topics of laws, judges, cases, lawyers, and all the same old conflicts in Grisham's books. Additionally, this novel has very limited emotional emphasis. Romanticists in search of love stories will therefore find it to be mercilessly dry, dull, and superficial.

    8 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 20, 2010

    A Testament to The Testament

    I have read all but one of Grisham's books. The Testament is by far my favorite. From the very first chapter this book demands your attention and devotion. Use caution while reading it because you find yourself walking and reading, cooking and reading, cleaning and reading, you get the picture. I have read this book 3 times since it was first published.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 1, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    Possibly one of the best books, I have ever read. Beautifully crafted

    In the review for this book, Just imagine as I quote the author " The world at peace" taking a ride in The Santa Loura with Nate's Pals Jevy and Welly into the Pantanal. Jevy at the wheel, and Welly strumming his guitar and one of us, readers holding a cold beer in our right hand while laying on a hammock. Johh Grisham's "The Testament" is an amazing ride full of adventures, an elite of characters, you will come to love, but most of all, a great book that you will not soon forget. It is amazing how John Grisham creates character that are so easy to like. However, in Nate's character there are some strong surprises. His portrait of his highs and lows are beautifully described by the author. The bittersweet reunion with his little children, and Rachel Lane at the end make Nate's character one of the most likable ones. The testament is about faith, character, life, greed, and yes, the pursuit of happiness that people only can find on a higher calling. This is one book that I am sure I will read again.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 19, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    This is great!

    The book keeps you involved from beginning to end. Great story line.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 11, 2009

    Boring, Boring, Boring!

    I use to love reading John Grisham books however lately I have found his writing brings on nothing but a yawn fest from me. This is definitely one book that had caused me to produce a myriad of yawns; good for putting me to sleep so I guess it does have some value afterall. I have skipped several pages at a time while reading this book and have found that I never really missed anything in doing so. Especially during one characters long trip down a river; that whole scenario could have been wraped up in about three pages or less. At this point I do not beleive I will be reading any more of his books any time soon unless I hear rave reviews from some avid book reading friends of mine.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2008

    Good story, just not my kind.

    Easy to get into once you started, not something you thought about later. Surprise ending. I enjoyed the snappy lawyers, jungle mishapps, and court room warfare.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 30, 2006

    Mediocre Grisham

    Grisham starts with a captivating person doing an extraordinary thing. Totally sucked me in. Then he dragged me across Brazil for three hundred dull, almost meaningless pages until he closed with a real nice twist. This is the seventh book I've read of John Grisham. By far the least exciting. A Time to Kill was bitching. He writes to fulfill contractual money obligations, now. It shows.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 31, 2008

    A reviewer

    John Grisham's The Testament starts out with a great snare for readers. The multi-billionaire, Troy Phelan, has just been through a psych evaluation and passes and then commits suicide no more than five minutes later. The story them moves to the heirs of his will, or rather, the heirs that would have been but arent really. Phelan, in the minutes before jumping off of his 14 story high rise, left his riches to an illegitimate daughter who no one knows exists. She is a missionary working with primative native tribes on the Bolivia-Brazil border. Phelan's lawyer sends a recovering drug addict and alcoholic, Nate O'Riley, down to investigate and bring back her signature. As each pages turns, you'll begin to predict what all will happen to Nate before you've read it. Since he's an alcoholic, will there be any regressions? Well... you can say that. Will there be loads of obstacles to overcome once he starts headed into the marshes of the Pantanal? Uh... yeah. As soon as Nate finds the mysterious Rachel Lane, Phelan's illegitimate daughter. Then Grisham starts preaching. Let God be your guide and all of the the sudden everything is fine for Nate, well that's great but this is supposed to be a legal thriller. After 533 pages, you come out of the novel thinking 'wow, is that it?' The Testament is an intriguing page turner but has no real good affect on the reader after it is over.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 28, 2005

    quick hook flat finish

    grishom starts off with his customary spellbinding tale however fails to deliver the thrilling finish.this novel gets sidetracked and tends to drag on

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 26, 2004

    Not bad but..

    The first (2) chapters hook you in. However, I found myself struggling to finish the book. John Grisham has a knack for tapping into his reader's curiousity to keep you hooked. He's one of my favorite authors, but I was slightly disappointed in this one.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 30, 2003

    Not his best, but worth the read

    I have read almost all of Grisham's books to date. This certainly doesn't have the suspense and appeal that most of his other books have had (e.g. The Firm, The Client, The Partner, etc.) But neither was it a dud (as was The Summons, which is not worth even borrowing to read.) I thought The Testament was a good story (though it dragged in places) and is definitely worth buying and reading.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 19, 2003

    Disappointed

    It seems to me that if you are going to write something, you should know what your talking about. John Grisham did NOT do his research when writing this novel. At the beginning of chapter 21, he talks about a woman born in an igloo in Newfoundland and about the native Inuit people that lived there. Newfoundland has never had igloos as it is much to warm there and they only have snow about 2-3 months out of a year. And the Inuit people never lived in Newfoundland either. They lived along the shores from from the Bering Sea to Greenland. An uneducated person does not give a good first impression.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 11, 2002

    Big boo boo

    My first Grisham novel led me to read several more, but after reading The Testament, I think it's time to give Grisham books a permanent rest. I kept reading because I was hoping the plot would thicken, but it never happened.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 26, 2000

    grisham tries something different , but the result is disappointing

    Pretty boring , don't waste your time on this . I have read all of his novels and The Partner , Runaway Jury were great and all his initial novels were good too , but this one and the street lawyer let me down ..

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 20, 2000

    Good action and plot

    I cannot argue against the fact that this novel is definitely a page-turner and very fast paced, which makes it gripping and exciting. However, I was bothered by Grisham's ways of degrading the country in which most of the story took place. I am not from Brazil or the US, but I do sympathize with the Brazilians because Grisham has made a definite point of making it look low, poor, dirty, and full of disease. He described its people as being isolated from the modern world - and I'm not referring to the tribes, but to the cities - and living in the past. Stating the facts is one thing, but deliberate lingering over the negative details was a turn-off. There is also a general negative tone that is carried throughout the story, but it is quickly overridden by the fast pace of the action. It is a good story, interesting enough by taking place in the jungle, but I don't see why Grisham wants to spread a negative viewpoint about Brazil; there are other ways to make a story interesting without degrading other countries.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 25, 2000

    Yawn.....

    This was an uncharacteristically boring novel. The plot meandered aimlessly for most of the book and seemed to be heading nowhere. To be fair, the courtroom episodes were well written as usual. Overall a letdown.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 27, 2000

    Awful

    I am a John Grisham fan. I have loved most of his books and I was disgusted with this pitiful excuse for a book, it was really his worst. The characters we were supposed to hate, were a little interesting, but the one's that we were supposed to like were bland and boring. The only part of the book that held any interest was the trip down the river in Brazil. The thing I found most offensive about this book was the missionary character. She was, in typical missionary form, trying to ruin a peaceful and ancient culture with her tunnel visioned religious notions. It was appauling. I was bored and yet offended by this book. If you want to read self-rightous Christian propoganda, then read this book, but my advise is to skip this one and hope that Grisham returns to his normal legal thriller format soon.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 22, 2000

    Uneventful End

    I didn't like this one as much as the others I've read by Grisham, although, as always, it was well written. There seemed to be a few sub-plots and characters that were never fully developed. The middle was a bit slow, it lacked suspense, and the end was disappointing.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 1, 2000

    Ran Out of Gas

    I was loving the book which was full of excitement and adventure. I couldn't put it down because I had to see how it ended. That is when Mr. Grisham ran out of gas. After all those pages of wonderful reading, the end was VERY disappointing and uneventful. I expected more.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 12, 2000

    Grisham's first loser

    I've read all of Grisham's books. This is the first one that I didn't care if I finished it. The most interesting people in the story are the children and ex-wives, yet we never really get to know them.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 443 Customer Reviews

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