Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Review: Gray Mountain by John Grisham

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Gray Mountain
John Grisham
Print Length: 386 pages
Publisher: Doubleday
Release Date: October 21, 2014
Source: Audible

Goodreads | Amazon | Aubidle

John Grisham has a new hero . . . and she’s full of surprises

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.


I was really excited about this book!  I mean, read that misleading inaccurate summary!  It sounds awesome!  I was excited about reading a new release (I even preordered through Audible!) from an author I grew up reading, that should have felt like coming home.  I was expecting something energetic like The Client or The FirmGray Mountain is far from what I was expecting.  Instead, it felt like coming home to the house your parents moved into while you were away at college: unfamiliar.

I scanned a few Goodreads reviews to get hints about what other people felt, to help direct my thoughts, and noticed several people called this an “issue novel.”  While I understand what the nomenclature means, I didn’t see Gray Mountain in the light.  It is an intriguing novel, one that does comment—within the context of fiction—how deplorably coal miners have been (possibly still are?) treated.  Yet, even if Gray Mountain is an “issue novel,” it is a compelling story.

Even though Gray Mountain is compelling, it felt lacking—lacking the essentials of what I have considered a John Grisham novel.  It felt very flat, almost as if Grisham had lost his mojo.  I waited and waited for there to be some mystery/suspense.  And it never came.  The parts that were more action-like passed quickly, and weren’t very action-packed.  This should be placed in the “contemporary” category, more than mystery/suspense.

That is my issue with Gray Mountain—that in some 10 hours of listening, not much really happens.  No intense chase scenes, or shootouts, or anything…exciting.  And there is minimal growth of the main character.  I was hoping and wishing that she would step up to the challenge, (wo)man up, as it were, and do what needed to be done.  {SPOILER} But she didn’t.  She whined and “woe-d is me” for 99% of the book—lamenting the life she left behind in New York, only redeeming herself in the 11th hour.

I finished it up on my commute home, and as soon as I had the chance, I pulled up Goodreads to see if this was the first in a series…which it is not.  And so I’m baffled.  I’m confused about what I’m supposed to feel after reading this book.  I’m confused about what the actual story is.  {SPOILER} I’m confused about why there is no ending.  There is no epilogue, or dialogue, or anything to complete the plot.  There is no resolution of all the clients we’re invested in.  How do they all turn out!?!?!

Which has led us to my biggest dilemma: how do I rate this book?  I’ve spent two days thinking, mulling, and evaluating.  And I’m still wavering between two different ratings.  I’m resting firmly between a two and a four.  Here’s why:  I enjoyed the premise of the story (4 out of 5), yet the deficits in the action/excitement and the Swiss-cheese of plot holes give me pause (2 out of 5).  For the sake of simplicity, I guess I’m on the fence about Gray Mountain.  So, I guess this is a solid 3.

rating 3 of 5
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3 comments:

  1. I'm a huge fan of John Grisham and was very excited to learn of a new release. Now I'm disheartened to learn that this doesn't hold up to his previous work.

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  2. One of the best books I have read in a long time. Highly recommended to those who enjoy a thought-provoking read about the exploitation of the working man by corporate America.

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  3. Gray Mountain has all of the characteristics of a Grisham classic with its pacing, twists, and turns. The novel does not disappoint. It is a genre that has worked well for Grisham, and is shows true here.

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Thanks so much for the comment love!