The Theodore Boone book series by John Grisham takes place in the fictional town of Strattenburg, Pennsylvania. Is Strattenburg, Pennsylvania based on a real town?

  • There's a couple of pieces of information here which might help in getting an approximate location for Strattenburg. Not sure if that's quite what you're after though. – Rand al'Thor Jan 22 '17 at 0:43
  • @Randal'Thor That could form part of an answer. – Benjamin Jan 22 '17 at 1:28

I couldn't find any evidence supporting the fact that Grisham based Strattenburg off of a real town instead of just a generic archetype of a small town. There's no canon evidence to support either side.

However, I was still curious to see if Strattenburg bore any striking resemblances to some real towns in Pennsylvania. I went ahead and used this information, which is part of an official educational activity worksheet that serves as a companion to the books. Therefore, I'm assuming the information stated there is accurate.

It states that:

Strattenburg, in Stratten County, is a medium-sized town of around 75,000 population. We aren’t told exactly where it is, although sometimes we are given a clue: for example, in The Abduction it takes Theo and Ike six hours to drive from home to Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Also, we’re told that there is a river to the east of the town forming the border with the next county.

Using this Wikipedia article, only two Pennsylvania cities are close to the 75,000 mark stated in the worksheet: Bethlehem and Scranton. After narrowing it down to these two cities, I plugged both of them into Google Maps on a route to Chapel Hill. Bethlehem comes closest to the time stated, with an estimated time of arrival of 7 hours and 12 minutes, while a trip from Scranton is estimated to take 7 hours and 49 minutes.

Lastly, Bethlehem even has the river that is referenced in the worksheet: the Lehigh River, which runs in the eastern portion of Pennsylvania.

Thus, I think it's safe to say that although it's unknown whether Grisham based Strattenburg off of a real city, Bethlehem seems strikingly similar to Strattenburg if he did base it off of a real city.

  • Interesting. Now I'm wondering (not having read the book in question) whether there's any sort of biblical significance here. – Rand al'Thor Jan 22 '17 at 2:50
  • This is a great answer. @Randal'Thor That would be an interesting twist. – Benjamin Jan 22 '17 at 10:55

I just finished reading the entire series (except for the first book Kid Lawyer) and have no reason to think there's an underlying biblical reason for choosing Bethlehem as the town for which he models Strattenburg. The protagonist, Theodore Boone's, family were Christians who went to church every Sunday and prayed before meals. However, that appears merely to be a detail to fill in Theo's background and culture, not for any "biblical purposes." In other words, the author seems not to be promoting a religious message; his goal appears to be to tell a good story. He succeeds very well in doing this.

  • Hi and welcome to Literature Stack Exchange. Did you also check the link that Rand al'Thor posted? – IkWeetHetOokNiet Dec 31 '19 at 20:00
  • I'm still trying to figure out how this platform works. But yes, I read your comment asking whether there was a biblical significance because of the name Bethlehem, the town in Pennsylvania on which Grisham based his Strattenburg. I wasn't sure what you meant by "biblical significance," which is why my response was rather broad. – Sarah Bowman Jan 19 at 20:57

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.