Gray Mountain

Gray Mountain: A NovelGray Mountain: A Novel by John Grisham

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is billed as a “legal thriller.” Legal, yes. Thriller? Not my usual genre, but this isn’t what I expected at all. Also my first Grisham book. I thought I would be on the edge of my seat. But no. Is it just me, or is this not a typical John Grisham book? It’s not a bad story. Young NY lawyer gets laid off and finds herself doing pro bono work in the middle of coal country – rural Appalachia – where she learns about the realities of poverty, drug addiction, spousal abuse, the health and environmental effects of coal mining, and the plights of poor coal miners and their families against the powerful and corrupt coal and insurance industries. Her former boss tries to lure her back to New York with a job in a new and promising law firm, but maybe, just maybe, by the end of the novel she will decide that helping people who need her is ultimately more rewarding and “thrilling” than working 100 hours a week at a drudge job and making scads of money. Yes, there is a murder, but it isn’t proven. And the set-up for a heck of a battle lawsuit against the corrupt coal company doesn’t go anywhere. Unless this is going to be a new series….

Book Description: 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.