I used to love John Grisham. The Firm, A Time to Kill, The Pelican Brief were all favorites. I also loved the non-legal books like Playing for Pizza, Calico Joe and A Painted House. But somewhere along the way, I lost patience with the legal thrillers, especially when the main characters, generally well educated lawyers, started doing incredibly stupid stuff. I stopped reading them, tried again with The Litigators because my library patrons raved about it, but again found the main character too stupid to live. I gave up. Then came Gray Mountain.
I heard it may be the first book of a series, and I liked the environmental angle so I picked it up and read it in a day (okay, I was on vacation.) I loved it. Welcome back to my reading circle, Mr. Grisham.
The story revolves around Samantha Kofer, a Columbia Law School grad with a great six-figure job for one of the behemoth law firms on Wall Street. And then there was Lehman Brothers and the financial crisis and all those big law firms started cutting and cutting. Samantha got a good deal – she could take a one year furlough, do some good work pro bono, keep her medical benefits and maybe, just maybe, after the year is up she might get her job back.
The pro bono jobs were going fast; Samantha received nine rejection letters in her first day of applying. Until she heard from the Mountain Legal Aid Clinic in Brady, Virginia, a small town in the Appalachia’s. And so she moved to Virginia, at least temporarily, to work at the all girl clinic.
For the first time, Samantha likes her work and feels useful. She actually gets to help people and they appreciate her help. Until her first black lung case – a huge problem with all the mining in Appalachia. When she finds evidence that the coal company and their lawyers hid evidence, people start dying.
I learned a lot about coal mining today and what the miners go through, none of it good. I really liked these characters and the setting, and the stupidity was left to minor characters, a much welcome change. I would love to read more about Samantha and her life in Brady and hope the rumors about a series come to pass.
1/15 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch
GRAY MOUNTAIN by John Grisham. Doubleday; First Edition edition (October 21, 2014). ISBN 978-0385537148. 384p.