By John Grisham
published by Doubleday
I borrowed a copy of this book from my local library.
If you read this blog, you know that I am a pretty big fan of John Grisham and I think I have read almost every single one of his books- Calico Joe being the exception. I know after a while they can seem a little predictable and formulaic, but I still love them. So I was really looking forward to his latest, Gray Mountain. The beginning was great, especially the imagined bloodbath that occurred when the “you know what” hit the fan in 2008, and so many lost their jobs. We meet Samantha, three years out of law school and racking up massive billing hours in the real estate department of one of the biggest law firms in the country. When she is laid off, the firm gives her the option of doing pro bono work in a not for profit in the sour in return for keeping her benefits and her seniority if they can rehire her. I found this part a little strange-what person only three years out of law school can work for free for a whole year? Anyway, she goes to work in Appalachia at a legal aid clinic. This part I loved, since Grisham has such a great touch with his secondary characters- especially southern ones. I almost wish the story had just concentrated on the work Samantha does at the clinic, but it veered into typical Grisham territory with the little guy versus Big Coal. While I definitely learned a good deal about the absolutely awful things cola companies are doing everyday without punishment, I just wish it didn’t take over the story. A good book, but not his best. Give me The Pelican Brief any day.
The year is 2008 and Samantha Kofer’s career at a huge Wall Street law firm is on the fast track—until the recession hits and she gets downsized, furloughed, escorted out of the building. Samantha, though, is one of the “lucky” associates. She’s offered an opportunity to work at a legal aid clinic for one year without pay, after which there would be a slim chance that she’d get her old job back.
In a matter of days Samantha moves from Manhattan to Brady, Virginia, population 2,200, in the heart of Appalachia, a part of the world she has only read about. Mattie Wyatt, lifelong Brady resident and head of the town’s legal aid clinic, is there to teach her how to “help real people with real problems.” For the first time in her career, Samantha prepares a lawsuit, sees the inside of an actual courtroom, gets scolded by a judge, and receives threats from locals who aren’t so thrilled to have a big-city lawyer in town. And she learns that Brady, like most small towns, harbors some big secrets.
Her new job takes Samantha into the murky and dangerous world of coal mining, where laws are often broken, rules are ignored, regulations are flouted, communities are divided, and the land itself is under attack from Big Coal. Violence is always just around the corner, and within weeks Samantha finds herself engulfed in litigation that turns deadly.