Gray Mountain by John Grisham is an exciting read. I’m a former litigation paralegal, having worked in both plaintiff and corporate law firms, who wholeheartedly worked on medical issues and worker’s compensation and more—no wonder I was so hungry for Grisham’s latest novel! This book was one I could not put down: I read it in three days; I actually had to force myself to slow down while reading it just to remind myself it’s a novel to enjoy while drinking a cup of tea , and so on.
The story revolves around three characters, Samantha Kofer, Donovan Gray and Mattie Wyatt, three attorneys from starkly different backgrounds. They are determined to fight against the massive wrongdoings of coal mining companies. Set in Appalachia, in the United States—a beautiful, yet environmentally threatened mountain region—the author writes a compelling story about the struggle of poor people and their brave and dedicated lawyers who challenge the powerful mining companies in the courts. Like most of his books, Grisham writes in such a way that makes you feel like you are really there—this book even more so—living and breathing the very air and walking the very earth the characters do while they negotiate through the tough terrain of relentless litigation, and trying to cope with sometimes unexpected and unyielding consequences. It makes you want to go there and see it all for yourself.
Usually, on this blog, I don’t review novels. And, so, why am I putting this review up on my blog which supposedly is devoted to philosophical books? Simple. Morality, and “good will”—“doing what is good and right”. This story definitely is filled with moral issues, both crushing and delicate—moral dilemmas inevitably are to be found in any story that deals with the human subject who is in some very difficult uncompromising struggle with societal power structures, corporations included. Each character in this story is so carefully developed, and so very convincing, that you cannot help but feel the frustrations, and the dilemmas that they face day in and day out. You either cheer them on or you want to challenge them head on. And I’ve been in the Appalachian mountains as well as having had a friend whose father was a coal miner in West Virginia; thus the story told by Grisham brought everything home to me. Superbly written: the story is not always focused on grim reality, it is intertwined with great humor, colorful scenes, excitement—passionate and spirited creativity, engulfing and surrounding the characters’ lives and actions. I’d certaiinly like to see a follow up to this book, as it is a story that seems to need it—I’m craving more.
Gray Mountain, is certainly one of John Grisham’s finest novels ever written. Sorry, I won’t give away the plot—the rest I’ll leave up to you to find out. You won’t be disappointed. If you like adventure, mystery and a story that teases out elements of reality, then this is a book to relish. And by the way, since this story has so many exciting elements—one of which is the very setting in Appalachia itself—it would make a great film too!
And if you are in the mood to read some current events about the coal mining industry, go and visit this article: “The crumbling of Big Coal: Appalachia reels as an industry meets its demise”, by Laura Gottesdiener and TomDispatch.com , Thursday, August 27, 2015
John Grisham. Gray Mountain. (London: Hodder & Stoughton Ltd., 2014)
BOOK REVIEWED by Karin Susan Fester (c) 2015
Addendum: I wrote the review, not because the author needs publicity (he’s famous already), but because I want to encourage people to read the book for the various issues it presents in the context of a fictitious story, but relevant to the real world.