Wednesday, December 13, 2017

"A Time to Stand" by Robert Whitlow

In a story that feels ripped from the headlines, Robert Whitlow takes readers to a small town divided by racial tensions.

In a small Georgia town where racial tensions run high and lives are at stake, can one lawyer stand up for justice against the tide of prejudice on every side?

Adisa Johnson, a young African-American attorney, is living her dream of practicing law with a prestigious firm in downtown Atlanta. Then a split-second mistake changes the course of her career.

Left with no other options, Adisa returns to her hometown where a few days earlier a white police officer shot an unarmed black teen who is now lying comatose in the hospital.

Adisa is itching to jump into the fight as a special prosecutor, but feels pulled to do what she considers unthinkable—defend the officer.

As the court case unfolds, everyone in the small community must confront their own prejudices. Caught in the middle, Adisa also tries to chart her way along a path complicated by her budding relationship with a charismatic young preacher who leads the local movement demanding the police officer answer for his crime.

This highly relevant and gripping novel challenges us to ask what it means to forgive while seeking justice and to pursue reconciliation while loving others as ourselves.

Unputdownable. That's a great way to describe Robert Whitlow's writing. When I wasn't reading A Time to Stand, I was thinking about it and wondering how it would all turn out. The concept of an African-American attorney representing a white police officer who shot an unarmed African-American teenager is intriguing, and I thought Whitlow handled the topic well.

Adisa, the attorney, is such a fascinating character. Longing to prosecute but feeling God calling her to work for Luke's (the officer's) defense, Adisa's emotions and struggles struck me as incredibly realistic. The reaction she faced from her own community as she defended the officer (even while being unsure if he truly was innocent) coupled with the prejudice she encountered drove much of the plot.

As I read, I wasn't sure if Luke would end up serving time, even as I was fairly certain he had acted appropriately (based on how the shooting scene unfolded). However, I didn't like Luke very much; perhaps I wasn't supposed to. The final resolution wrapped up the case satisfactorily without being too predictable, and Luke did end up becoming more likable.

The one portion of the novel that didn't ring true to me was a subplot involving Adisa's relationship with a local pastor. Their relationship progressed incredibly quickly without much evidence as to why, and I think I would've enjoyed the book more if the pastor hadn't been a love interest for Adisa.

Overall, A Time to Stand feels very timely, and it's a compelling read. I've seen Whitlow compared to John Grisham, and that seems accurate to me. Fans of legal thrillers will find much to love in A Time to Stand. 4 stars.

Buy the book.
Read my review of Whitlow's The Choice (4-1/2 stars).

Robert Whitlow is the best-selling author of legal novels set in the South and winner of the prestigious Christy Award for Contemporary Fiction. A Furman University graduate, Whitlow received his J.D. with honors from the University of Georgia School of Law where he served on the staff of the Georgia Law Review. A practicing attorney, Whitlow and his wife, Kathy, have four children. They make their home in North Carolina.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook blogger program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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