An incredibly powerful novel that peels back the curtain of injustice, laying bare human pride and prejudice, rooted in fear, and how one person can be the fertile ground for positive change And each of us are potentially the one This novel, though centered around a man sentenced to die in the electric chair for a crime he most likely didn t commit, it is of a story about executing the sin of pride which causes all humans to stumble. But let us say he was guilty Let us for a moment say he was guilty What justice would there be to take his life Justice, gentlemen Why, I would just as soon put a hog in the electric chair as this Ernest J Gaines, A Lesson Before Dying Jefferson, an African American man living in Louisiana in the late 1940s, is accused of a murder he didn t commit His lawyer uses the hog defence to get him off however, this is unsuccessful and Jefferson is sentenced to death Jefferson s godmother feels the importance of Jefferson dying as a man not as a hog , so she enlists the narrator, Grant, to teach Jefferson how to be a man so he can die with dignity.Grant was an interesting character in that he was the only educated black man in that community the community expected a lot from him and the immense pressure he was under was evident Add to that his questioning of the Christian faith and a complicated romantic relationship A very moody character, I m not sure how I felt about him I found the following quote immensely powerful as a person who abhors the death penalty regardless of how bad the person is How do people come up with a date and a time to take life from another man Who made them God This was definitely a moving book It stirred up feelings of indignation in me for sure. A Lesson Before Dying Is Set In A Small Cajun Community In The Late S 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 Informed His Previous, Highly Praised Works Of Fiction I dare you to read this and not be moved Jefferson, a poor, uneducated twenty one year old Black was standing in the wrong place at the wrong time in a small town liquor store outside of Bayonne, Louisiana It is the 1940s Three men are killed He is the only survivor He is tried , convicted and sentenced to the electric chair His nannan has one request She asks that Grant Wiggins, a teacher at the church school, be allowed to speak to him Let him die not as a hog but as a man Those are her words, not mine Will Grant succeed, or won t he That Jefferson is to die, is not up for question This is a book that is about dignity and strength It is about racial prejudice and discrimination in the South.It is about real kindness, by that I mean giving not what you want to give but what another needs.It is about education and what it has to achieve, its purpose.It is about faith and religion I believe it will satisfy both those with and without religious beliefs.And about what keeps a person alive, about last requests and about the inhumanity of the death sentence That is an awful lot for such a short book In my view the author does succeed with all these topics masterfully The characters words and actions are well chosen, making the tale succinct and powerful.Th audiobook narration is executed by Lionel Mark Smith and Roger Guenveur Smith I had some trouble understanding specific words in the beginning Was the word I was hearing, hog , what I was supposed to be hearing Then it cleared for me yes, it was The black, Southern dialect is strong, and it should be The tempo is perfect The narration is remarkably well done, so this I have given five stars.In my view, this is Ernest J Gaines best book A Lesson before Dying 4 stars Catherine Carmier 3 stars The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman 1 star A lesson Before Dying is a very MOVING book By reading most of the other reviews I m sure everyone understands what this novel is about I m not positive if I would have appreciated this book in High School had I read it 10 years ago I would like to thank Mr Gaines for his lessons I ve typed out a few powerful passages that moved meThere were but these are just some I made sure I highlighted A hero is someone who something for other people He does something that other men don t and can t do He is different from other men He is above other men No matter who those other men are, the hero, no matter who he is, is above them Do you know what a myth is, Jefferson I asked him A myth is an old lie that people believe in White people believe that they re better then anyone else on earth and that s a myth The last thing they ever want is to see a black man stand, and think, and show that common humanity that is in us all It would destroy their myth They would no longer gave justification for having made us slaves and keeping us in the condition we are in As long as none of stand, they re safe Please listen to me, because I would not lie to you now I speak from my heart You have the chance of being bigger then anyone who has ever lived on that plantation or come from this little town You can do it if you try You have seen how Mr Farrell makes a slingshot handle He starts with just a little piece of rough wood any little piece of scrap wood then he starts cutting Cutting and cutting and cutting, then shaving Shaves it down clean and smooth till it s not what it was before, but something new and pretty You know what I m talking about, because you have seen him do it You had one that he made from a piece of scrap wood Yes, yes I saw you with it And it came from a piece of old wood that he found in the yard somewhere And that s all we are Jefferson, all of us on this earth, a piece of drifting wood until we each of us, individually decide to become something else I am still that piece of drifting wood, and those out there are no better But you can be better. The third Ernest Gaines novel I ve read gets another 5 stars from me Just as in The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman and In My Father s House , I was not quite the same person as I turned the last page that I was when I began There was a tiny seismic shift inside me that I recognized as another piece of understanding in this complicated dance of racial relations between black and white.A simple story on the surface Young Jefferson, a black man, is in the wrong place at the wrong time and is sentenced to the electric chair His Godmother, Miss Emma, asks the local schoolteacher, Grant Wiggins, to visit him in jail and make him understand that he is not a hog with no understanding as the prosecutor decribed him, but a young man that she is proud of The outcome is known from page one, but the journey is long, complicated, and heart rending This is Louisiana in 1948, and the white man is in charge.As in the other two books I mentioned, the women in this novel are the strong ones, and get things done Miss Emma and Aunt Lou get what they need through a combination of guilt, bribery and respect They never hesitate to use them, even on the white people They know what works So, apparently, does Ernest J Gaines His language is simple and direct, but he can convey a world of emotion and feelings in just a few words He made me feel humiliation and anger and hurt so many times with just a description of a glance or movement He made me see that the black man s understanding of the white man has to be many times that of white for black, just as an act of survival I ended this novel in tears, not for Jefferson s death, but for his life He was the bravest man in the room. I still think about this book, even after reading it months ago It s a very simple story about two African American men in 1940s Louisiana one is a teacher and the other is a uneducated man waiting to be executed for a murder he witnessed, but didn t commit Both of them have given up hope for their lives, and for humanity in general They live by the rules of the white majority, and both face a bleak future that s beyond their ability to change They are forced to spend time together, and eventually, they end up teaching each other how noble they are, and how precious life is I won t lie it s a very sad book, so you should read it with a box of Kleenex nearby But it s not tragic There s a great message that you ll carry away from it I still believe that To Kill a Mockingbird is the best American novel, but A Lesson Before Dying now ranks in my top three So read it, and not just because it s a profound examination of racial, gender, and religious issues Read it as an appreciation of what the human soul can achieve, even in the smallest spaces If you get to the line, Tell Nannan I walked and you don t get choked up, you should check your pulse. A tale of Jefferson, a poor black man in Louisiana in the late 40 s, sentenced to death for a crime he didn t commit, and the teacher, Grant Wiggins, who is asked to help him somehow to become of a man before he dies Grant has little faith in his value as a teacher to elementary kids facing an unjust and impoverished life or belief in any afterlife But he comes to identify with Jefferson and his need to achieve a sense of his own self dignity, and this task becomes part of his own quest The prose is rich and elegant in its spareness and the story never settles into melodrama. With raw, unflinching honesty and a brilliant depiction of time and place, this is the story of a young, black man sentenced to death for being in the wrong place at the wrong time A white man was shot to death, the other two perpetrators dead, someone must be held accountable.A young school teacher, returned to the quarters to teach the black school children, and now enlisted by his aunt and the condemned man s nana to help the man go to his death as a man, not as an inhuman man, not much better than a hog, a thing, not a person Poignant depiction of strong women, women who had to be since so many of the men had left and not returned In school I read this author but the book assigned was The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, which was also very good It is difficult for the reader not to e touched by this book, this young man s plight and the sorrow of the people closest to him The last chapter of this book is unforgettable At least it is for me. This account of a school teacher s attempt to bring dignity to the last days of a condemned man in 1940 s Louisiana is moving but still somehow disappointing Shortened, it would have made a fine novella.