Saturday, January 21, 2017

A study in limitations

Well-chosen one-word titles can sometimes carry a multitude of meanings in that single word. A good case in point is Scott Turow's relatively brief 2006 novel Limitations. At first glance, the title refers to the statute of limitations at the center of the legal case before the Court of Appeals and in which George Mason, as the presiding judge, has the deciding vote. Some college boys had raped an unconscious girl and videotaped their actions. The girl, when she awoke, knew something had happened to her but didn't know what until years later when the videotape surfaced. But after so many years, at least according to the defense attorneys, the young men, now respected citizens, cannot be held accountable. Or can they? Judge Mason must decide, a decision made more difficult by his returning memories of something he himself did during his own college days.

Meanwhile, George's beloved wife is hospitalized with a serious illness, someone is sending him death threats and two young men assault him in a parking garage.

In under 200 pages, Turow makes his readers think not just about the statute of limitations, which could allow rapists to go free, but other kinds of legal limitations, as well. Plus we witness limitations of personality, limitations to life and health, limitations of ability, limitations of courage, limitations of strength, limitations of wisdom, limitations to friendship and on and on.

This may just be a legal thriller of the sort Scott Turow excels at, but amazingly the brevity of the novel did not pose much of a limitation on the author's ability to pack it full of points to ponder.

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