Gray Mountain by John Grisham

Gray Mountain by John Grisham
Publisher: Doubleday
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full Length (368 pgs)
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

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.

Sometimes the scariest books are the ones that are true to life.

This is one of those books.

I love the work of John Grisham. He’s one of my go-to authors and auto-buys. I’ve only read a couple of his books I didn’t like and I’ve read them all. His writing flows well, but there are occasionally some hiccups. I don’t mind the hiccups. The story of Gray Mountain is engaging. I needed to know what was going to happen next. I read this book in one afternoon and am glad I picked up the book.

The book hit hard and hit home for me because of the general theme: bullies and those who don’t really understand trying to take on and destroy those who don’t agree with them. I could see people I knew in the characters and rooted for them to have happy endings, although I knew the plot might not go according to my wishes.

This book deals with the downturn in the legal conglomerate and the effect of Lehman Brothers on the economy. For many, this downturn is something they’ve dealt with and it did make the book relateable. This can be construed as an ‘issue book’, meaning there is an underlying issue being delivered to the reader. In this case, it’s the coal mining industry and the ecological devastation done by some of the mining practices. There are moments when the book could be a bit preachy, but it made me think about the actual people having to deal with these issues. I felt for the families having to deal with black lung, being blackballed by the major corporations and feeling like they have no voice. My heart went out to them.

Of all the characters, I loved the Gray brothers. Donovan and Jeff were pieces of work. Daring, dangerous, misunderstood and. . . yeah, sexy. I could see them and could picture them on the big screen. I loved Donovan’s desire to stick it to big business and Jeff’s devil-may-care attitude. The twists and turns concerning the brothers weren’t anticipated, but even when I didn’t like the plot twists, I understood why the things had to happen.

Although I really enjoyed the book, there were a few things that drove me nuts. Samantha, the heroine, needed to do some growing up. She was interesting, but she took some time for me to digest. Once I thought about her and mulled over my feelings, I realized she was a product of her upbringing. Although her tendency to shy away from things she didn’t understand and where she wasn’t directly told what to do did get on my nerves.

If you want a book that will make you think, then this might be the read for you.

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