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A Lesson Before Dying

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Hardcover published by Knopf (Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group)

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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.

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 unformed his previous, highly praised works of fiction.

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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.

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 unformed his previous, highly praised works of fiction.

Product Details
Hardcover (272 pages)
Published: September 29, 1997
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Imprint: Knopf
ISBN: 9780679455615
Other books byErnest J. Gaines
  • The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman

    The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman
    Miss Jane Pittman. She is one of the most unforgettable heroines in American fiction, a woman whose life has come to symbolize the struggle for freedom, dignity, and justice. Ernest J. Gaines’s now-classic novel—written as an autobiography—spans one hundred years of Miss Jane’s remarkable life, from her childhood as a slave on a Louisiana plantation to the Civil Rights era of the 1960s. It is a story of courage and survival, history, bigotry, and hope—as seen through the eyes of a woman who lived through it all. A historical tour de force, a triumph of fiction, Miss Jane’s eloquent narrative brings to life an important story of race in America—and stands as a landmark work for our time.

    Catherine Carmier

    Catherine Carmier
    By the author of A Lesson Before Dying and The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, Catherine Carmier is a compelling love story set in a deceptively bucolic Louisiana countryside, where blacks, Cajuns, and whites maintain an uneasy coexistence. After living in San Francisco for ten years, Jackson returns home to his benefactor, Aunt Charlotte. Surrounded by family and old friends, he discovers that his bonds to them have been irreparably rent by his absence. In the midst of his alienation from those around him, he falls in love with Catherine Carmier, setting the stage for conflicts and confrontations which are complex, tortuous, and universal in their implications.

    A Gathering of Old Men

    A Gathering of Old Men
    Set on a Louisiana sugarcane plantation in the 1970s, A Gathering of Old Men is a powerful depiction of racial tensions arising over the death of a Cajun farmer at the hands of a black man. "Poignant, powerful, earthy...a novel of Southern racial confrontation in which a group of elderly black men band together against whites who seek vengeance for the murder of one of their own."--Booklist "A fine novel...there is a denouement that will shock and move readers as much as it does the characters."--Philadelphia Inquirer

    In My Father's House

    In My Father's House
    A story of a man brought to reckon with his buried past. Reverend Martin comes face to face with the sins of his youth in the person of Robert X, a young, unkempt stranger who arrives in town for a mysterious "meeting" with the Reverend.

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