By in Business

Brief Review of Gray Mountain by John Grisham

Gray Mountain is the only John Grisham book that has disappointed me. In my opinion the propaganda against strip-mining in the coal industry dominates the story enough to detract from it. Grisham also uses one of his common themes where a corporate lawyer is converted into one who actually cares about people. In this case, the lawyer is Samantha Kofer, New York City girl, who is furloughed from her job in the prominent Wall Street law firm of Scully & Pershing because of the recession.

To retain her health insurance and be able to come back in a year without losing seniority (if a new job exists by then), Samantha must intern with no pay for a company approved non-profit organization. She winds up at the Mountain Aid Legal Clinic in the tiny town of Brady, Virginia, in the Appalachia coal country. Her first experience in town is being arrested by a nutcase and taken to jail for speeding before she is rescued. Once it's established that she belongs and the arrest isn't real, her new boss Mattie Wyatt takes charge of her, and things settle down.

Since this is a brief review I won't go into detail about the plot and characters. The reader will learn all about the evils of strip-mining and the hard lives of miners who too often die of black lung disease and are cheated by the coal and insurance companies of the disability benefits due to them after they get sick. Mattie's legal aid clinic seeks to help these people.

Her nephew Donovan, whom she has raised, is a lawyer whose firm is dedicated to suing the big coal companies for damages and getting them to clean up their operations to conform to the environmental laws. The state supreme courts appear to have been bought by the coal companies, and verdicts in favor of those who lives have been ruined or ended are usually overturned in the State Supreme Court. Donovan and his brother Jeff, who helps in non-legal matters, often skirt the law themselves to match the methods of those they fight. This is something Samantha wants no part of.

The book does have its exciting moments and it did teach me more about the coal industry than I really wanted to know. It made me think more about the injustice in our justice system. It shows me the validity of legal aid organizations in the hands of the right people. The end is somewhat predictable, and not quite satisfying to me.

Have you read Gray Mountain ? What did you think?

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CoralLevang wrote on September 16, 2015, 6:19 PM

I have not read a lot of Grisham, though RGD has. I shall have to ask him the next time I talk with him... what he thought of this book, or if he has read it

msiduri wrote on September 16, 2015, 6:50 PM

I have not read this book, but read some Grisham years ago. Understand the cause overwhelming your enjoyment of it.

inertia4 wrote on September 16, 2015, 9:30 PM

Sounds like a very interesting book. I believe lots of corruption goes on in those industries. It all comes down to the companies bottom line. The workers are only number and the companies don't care about them. That is one major problem in this country.

BarbRad wrote on September 16, 2015, 11:28 PM

I normally like Grisham's legal thrillers I just didn't think this one was up to par.

BarbRad wrote on September 16, 2015, 11:30 PM

I normally don't like fiction that seems to mostly promote an agenda, even if it's an agenda I support.

BarbRad wrote on September 16, 2015, 11:31 PM

Grisham makes that quite clear here. And I do believe justice should be blind and that all should be equal before the law.

Paulie wrote on September 17, 2015, 12:13 AM

I liked your book review a lot and do plan on reading Gray Mountain. Could you tell me something about Grisham's background and who influenced his writing?

Feisty56 wrote on September 17, 2015, 10:50 AM

In his early years, Grisham was an author to be counted on to have written an engaging novel. My thoughts have been that in more recent times, the quality of his stories have been hit or miss at times. Maybe I set him up on too high a pedestal to begin with, expecting each subsequent novel to knock my socks off. I haven't yet read "Gray Mountain," and not so certain I want to after reading your thoughts here.

BarbRad wrote on September 17, 2015, 2:33 PM

He wanted to be a pro baseball player, but went into law and spent ten years practicing as a specialist in criminal defense and personal injury litigation. He has first-hand knowledge of these areas that are his favorite writing subjects.

BarbRad wrote on September 17, 2015, 2:34 PM

That is also my experience. It is hard fr him to keep his own voice out when he cares too much about his subject.

inertia4 wrote on September 17, 2015, 8:59 PM

I agree but we all know it isn't. Big businesses have the money to fight in court. And the money to pay people off.

Paulie wrote on September 18, 2015, 4:44 AM

Thank you very much for this background information!

AliCanary wrote on September 18, 2015, 12:04 PM

Speaking as someone who actually grew up in West Virginia, the "evils of strip mining" are REAL. It's not propaganda, it's information, and people should know it. Maybe he realized that putting it in a novel was a more effective way of getting people to read and learn about it.

paigea wrote on September 27, 2015, 7:28 PM

I have only read a couple of his books. It sounds like I should stick to the early ones.

BarbRad wrote on September 28, 2015, 3:00 AM

He got his message across to me, but I still felt too much of the novel was devoted to it.

BarbRad wrote on September 28, 2015, 3:01 AM

That might suit you better.

CalmGemini wrote on September 28, 2015, 5:22 AM

I agree with Feisty56 here.I have read almost all of his earlier books.But sadly,his books now are not up to those standards.Still,I will definitely read this book.

BarbRad wrote on October 1, 2015, 5:28 AM

Even we write better some times than at others.