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
    Commented Jan 22, 2017 at 0:43
  • @Randal'Thor That could form part of an answer.
    – Benjamin
    Commented Jan 22, 2017 at 1:28

3 Answers 3


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
    Commented Jan 22, 2017 at 2:50
  • This is a great answer. @Randal'Thor That would be an interesting twist.
    – Benjamin
    Commented Jan 22, 2017 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?
    – Tsundoku
    Commented Dec 31, 2019 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. Commented Jan 19, 2020 at 20:57

If you plug Strattenburg in google maps, you get one result which says Strattenburg, Pennsylvania. When you click on it, it is actually a school in the North-Center of Pennsylvania. And it is about 300 miles from Chapel Hill. If you were driving at 50 mph, you get to chapel hill in about 6 - 7 hours depending. This is why I am inclined to believe that John Grisham based the name and location of this town on Stattenburg, Pennsylvania - the school

  • 1
    Hi and welcome to Literature Stack Exchange. I appreciate you've done this research, but can you check whether John Grisham's Strattenburg is actually inspired by the real Strattenburg? Is there anything about the description in the book that matches the real place?
    – Tsundoku
    Commented May 1, 2020 at 22:50

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