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Thursday, November 29, 2018

Gray Mountain: A Novel


This summer, during our family vacation to Myrtle Beach, I chose John Grisham's Gray Mountain as my Grisham reading because you know I can’t hit the sand and not do one. It’s in my bones. 

During the great implosion of 2008, law firms were going belly up or, at a minimum, hemorrhaging employees. Poor Samantha — her hours of poring over commercial real estate contracts for wealthy magnates has come to an end. She has been offered a “furlough” with r in one year as long as she agrees to take an unpaid internship for that year. She ends up in rural Virginia, in the Appalachian mountains known for their coal. Land owners drool at the prospect of selling strip mining rights to big companies that wheel and deal and cheat and lie. At the legal aid clinic she comes to, Samantha soon discovers that she has the ability to help people who desperately need it, and some who don’t even want it. When a new friend is found dead after initiating the biggest lawsuit that side of Virginia has ever seen, Samantha must make a choice between the safety of New York City of the danger of pushing forward to keep her promises to her new friends. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this book in the best vacation way. It was absolutely perfect for a beach read — a little thriller-esque, a little pulpy, and a lot of character. Samantha was interesting if sightly annoying in that NYC bullshit snobby way of young people who earn too much money and think they need to spend it all. I had no patience for their bullshit in 2008 and I have even less in 2018. There’s no reason you should have so much money that you can afford to pay rent on your TriBeCa or Village high-rose while you intern for free in another state. My eyes are rolling into the back of my head as I type this. 

Other than that, I actually quite liked Samantha. She wrestled with doing right by her indigent clients while still trying to hold on to a piece of herself. She avoids the temptations of one romance (for good reason) while indulging in another (for yet another good reason). She cares and grows to care even more during her time in Virginia while still clinging to her knowledge that she can’t settle there forever. She doesn’t give in to what I expected would be a do-holder trope, and that was great to read. 

I also appreciated the social justice angle that Grisham took in this novel. The strip mining of land in the Appalachian region has been egregious to say the least, and it’s nice to see him bringing light to the issue. He even provides a reference to donate money for aid if you feel so inclined. Unfortunately, so much of the land has been destroyed in that area in the decade since this book was published, and little has changed in the way businesses hold and wield power. It’s angering at best and heart attack-inducing at worst. Putting that on the page for readers to face head-on deserves applause. 

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