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  • Judith D Collins

Gray Mountain


By: John Grisham

ASIN: B00LWEQ1V0

Narrator: Catherine Taber

Publisher: Random House Audio

Publication Date: 10/21/2014

Format: Audiobook

My Rating: 5 Stars


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The Great Recession of 2008 left many young professionals out of work. Promising careers were suddenly ended as banks, hedge funds, and law firms engaged in mass lay-offs and brutal belt tightening. Samantha Kofer was a third year associate at Scully & Pershing, New York City's largest law firm. Two weeks after Lehman Brothers collapsed, she lost her job, her security, and her future. A week later she was working as an unpaid intern in a legal aid clinic deep in small town Appalachia. There, for the first time in her career, she was confronted with real clients with real problems. She also stumbled across secrets that should have remained buried deep in the mountains forever.

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. She learns quickly that those twelve months will not be spent treading water. Instead, she is tossed almost immediately into daunting courtroom battles, arousing the suspicions and then the threats of locals who view her as a big-city intruder. A scintillating, cinematic page-turner that only Grisham could have written.


My Review

John Grisham’s GRAY MOUNTAIN, a suspenseful and powerful legal thriller of a young city girl, heading south; lands in rural Virginia, in the middle of Big Coal evil corruption, and a community left defenseless under their control.

Samantha Kofer (29 yr. old) loses her Wall Street job in commercial real estate law with a top firm, after the collapse, during the 2008 recession. Washington native, graduate of Georgetown and Columbia Law, she was a third-year associate at a huge New York law firm, working around the clock, making the big bucks; however, she finds herself unsatisfied, her lifestyle eating up her income, and no savings to tide her over for the next year.

In order to retain her status for a year at the firm, and maintain her health insurance, she needs to take on a year legal aid internship for a non-profit. She finds herself getting one reject after another, and just as she is about to give up, she accepts a position with Mountain Legal Aid Clinic in Brady, VA, population 2,200 in the middle of a poor Appalachian coal mining town.

Definitely a culture shock; however, she quickly finds there are some deep problems and a great need for legal assistance, in this community. Many lives have been destroyed by the coal mining business - every kind of cancer and contamination, and sickness you can list. However, no one seems to be able to win as they try and fight the Goliath giant.

Samantha is no stranger to the law business, as her father is still a high-profile consultant, having served time with playing on the fence—a fine line between good and evil. However, he knows the players and may be able to help pull together some financing of some of these cases which take a lot of money to prepare before the payout, that the smaller firms are not able to withstand.

Mattie, is her new boss at the legal aid clinic and has worked diligently for over 25 years to offer help to those who cannot afford legal assistance. Samantha is helping with her first case, and quickly moves on to a case of black lung problems.

No one seems to protect the interest of the miners, ones who have breathed in the chemicals and are entitled to disability payments. Of course, as most big corporate giants, they have the funds to tie up legal cases for years in court and the system; thereby delaying funds until they die or give up the fight, or wear them down, not having the funds to continue.

Of course, the doctors, prosecutors, judges, politicians, and regulators are all in the back pocket of these big players, furthermore making it difficult to fight for their rights.

One of the big cases involved two little boy which died in a trailer from the fault of the Big Coal, and there is much suspense as to holding out for more money for this family for a settlement, as they go up against the big boys, or go to trial (like playing the stock market with many risks).

Sam soon finds she has much to learn and is subjected to sensitive and confidential information. She now has to prepare a lawsuit and handle things she has never done, with high stakes, obstacles, and challenges which threaten lives. In the process she finds there are secrets, threats, and people who will kill in order to keep them buried.

Mattie’s nephew a good-looking young lawyer named Donovan, a one-man trailblazer; and driven attorney in pursuit of taking down Big Coal, for strip mining/mountaintop removal, which is cheaper and more cost efficient for them to remove the tops of mountains than to dig for it underground, which in turn does damage to the environment, streams, valleys and humans.

To further complicate, Donovan is also holding some secret documents, which have been stolen (brilliantly); which prove the mining company knew that chemicals it used in mountaintop removal have for a decade been polluting the wells of a small town nearby, giving it one of the highest cancer rates in America.

Samantha finds herself drawn to the fight, and to the people, as she gets personally involved with assisting the team in a legal capacity, as they fight for their rights against the powerful and evil Big Coal business. In the process, she learns more about herself, and finds her purpose in life, without the frills of the big city.

GRAY MOUNTAIN is much more than a legal thriller, as offers a human interest side and dynamics with the victims, the families, the community, the beauty of the area, the poverty, and the lives of the attorneys and families fighting to protect them.

Wow, was excited to get back to Grisham! I was an avid reader of Grisham before 2010 and read every book by this talented author (as one of my favorite genres) and enjoyed the movies; however, noticed have none of these books marked as “read” on Goodreads, as it was "pre-Goodreads' time; so I see I have a lot of reviews to catch up.

GRAY MOUNTAIN is a captivating and engaging read; highly recommend. I listened to the audiobook and the performer, Catherine Taber was an excellent voice for Sam. Welcome back, John, you have been missed!

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About the Author



Long before his name became synonymous with the modern legal thriller, he was working 60-70 hours a week at a small Southaven, Mississippi, law practice, squeezing in time before going to the office and during courtroom recesses to work on his hobby—writing his first novel.


Born on February 8, 1955 in Jonesboro, Arkansas, to a construction worker and a homemaker, John Grisham as a child dreamed of being a professional baseball player. Realizing he didn’t have the right stuff for a pro career, he shifted gears and majored in accounting at Mississippi State University. After graduating from law school at Ole Miss in 1981, he went on to practice law for nearly a decade in Southaven, specializing in criminal defense and personal injury litigation. In 1983, he was elected to the state House of Representatives and served until 1990.


One day at the DeSoto County courthouse, Grisham overheard the harrowing testimony of a twelve-year-old rape victim and was inspired to start a novel exploring what would have happened if the girl’s father had murdered her assailants. Getting up at 5 a.m. every day to get in several hours of writing time before heading off to work, Grisham spent three years on A Time to Kill and finished it in 1987. Initially rejected by many publishers, it was eventually bought by Wynwood Press, who gave it a modest 5,000 copy printing and published it in June 1988.


That might have put an end to Grisham’s hobby. However, he had already begun his next book, and it would quickly turn that hobby into a new full-time career—and spark one of publishing’s greatest success stories. The day after Grisham completed A Time to Kill, he began work on another novel, the story of a hotshot young attorney lured to an apparently perfect law firm that was not what it appeared. When he sold the film rights to The Firm to Paramount Pictures for $600,000, Grisham suddenly became a hot property among publishers, and book rights were bought by Doubleday. Spending 47 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list, The Firm became the bestselling novel of 1991.


The successes of The Pelican Brief, which hit number one on the New York Times bestseller list, and The Client, which debuted at number one, confirmed Grisham’s reputation as the master of the legal thriller. Grisham’s success even renewed interest in A Time to Kill, which was republished in hardcover by Doubleday and then in paperback by Dell. This time around, it was a bestseller.


Since first publishing A Time to Kill in 1988, Grisham has written one novel a year (his other books are The Firm, The Pelican Brief, The Client, The Chamber, The Rainmaker, The Runaway Jury, The Partner, The Street Lawyer, The Testament, The Brethren, A Painted House, Skipping Christmas, The Summons, The King of Torts, Bleachers, The Last Juror, The Broker, Playing for Pizza, The Appeal, The Associate, The Confession, The Litigators, Calico Joe, The Racketeer, Sycamore Row, Gray Mountain, Rogue Lawyer, The Whistler, Camino Island, The Rooster Bar, The Reckoning, and The Guardians) and all of them have become international bestsellers. There are currently over 300 million John Grisham books in print worldwide, which have been translated into 40 languages. Nine of his novels have been turned into films (The Firm, The Pelican Brief, The Client, A Time to Kill, The Rainmaker, The Chamber, A Painted House, The Runaway Jury, and Skipping Christmas), as was an original screenplay, The Gingerbread Man. The Innocent Man (October 2006) marked his first foray into non-fiction, and Ford County (November 2009) was his first short story collection.


Grisham took time off from writing for several months in 1996 to return, after a five-year hiatus, to the courtroom. He was honoring a commitment made before he had retired from the law to become a full-time writer: representing the family of a railroad brakeman killed when he was pinned between two cars. Preparing his case with the same passion and dedication as his books’ protagonists, Grisham successfully argued his clients’ case, earning them a jury award of $683,500—the biggest verdict of his career.


When he’s not writing, Grisham devotes time to charitable causes, including most recently his Rebuild The Coast Fund, which raised 8.8 million dollars for Gulf Coast relief in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. He also keeps up with his greatest passion: baseball. The man who dreamed of being a professional baseball player now serves as the local Little League commissioner. The six ballfields he built on his property have played host to over 350 kids on 26 Little League teams. WEBSITE

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