Now that I’ve realized how entertaining John Grisham’s books are, I read a third one. Gray Mountain, published in 2015 seems to be a departure in several ways. For one thing, the protagonist is female. Grisham does a good job with the character of young lawyer Samantha Kofer, who is forced out of the Manhattan rat race by the downsizing accompanying the beginning of recession.
The heart of the book is what comes next for Samantha – a stint as a volunteer at a legal aid clinic in rural Virginia. Grisham has marshaled every bit of his talent at describing scenes and creating believable characters to bring to appalling life the environmental and human devastation of coal mining country. Of course I’d heard of the problems with strip mining, but not lately, so I assumed that the problem had been taken care of. But it seems that as of 2014 parts of the United States were like a backward Third World country and coal companies were still systematically destroying the mountains of Appalachia. And in spite of well-meaning legislation, these same companies were exploiting their resources to avoid their legal responsibilities for miners with black lung disease.
Hats off to Grisham for putting his status as a best-selling author to use in bringing this situation to public attention and at the same time making it a good, if depressing, read.