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I used to love John Grisham, he could do no wrong. From the “The Pelican Brief” (which I’ve read at least seven times), to bawling while finishing “The Chamber,” to the more intense page turners “The Firm” and “A Time to Kill” – they were all wonderful. I used to be able to pick up the latest Grisham novel and know I was in for a good time.
I had been looking forward to yesterday for awhile. Not only was I taking the train to meet my mom and sister half-way for a shopping spree (someone has to support this dismal economy!), but I knew I would have quality train time to finish a couple books without distraction. Grisham’s legal thriller “The Appeal” from 2008 was on the top of my list.
Taking place in Bowmore, Mississippi, a sad little town that mammoth company Krane Pharmaceuticals has turned into “Cancer County, USA,” it’s a simple case of good vs. evil, David vs. Goliath. The novel opens with a huge verdict of $41MM awarded to a woman whose son and husband have both died as a direct result of the poison from Krane that ended up in the water system.
From here, the book goes horribly wrong.
Spinning off in tangents – religion, supreme court, bought politicians, local banks and bankruptcy, class action suits, greedy CEOs – while I won’t deny all the tangents somehow link back to the original verdict, there is so much going on that as the reader, it’s impossible to focus on the bigger picture or get attached and relate to any of the characters.
And the ending… wow. You hope for some character growth, and while it’s probable, the book ends with quite a few threads left hanging. Spoiler alert: I may be unrealistic, but I like to see karma come back in some form. I was hoping against hope the evil CEO and his co-conspirators aboard his mega-yacht in the last chapter would be the victims of some sort of boat explosion/lightning strike/iceburg hitting event, but it was not meant to be.
But please, by all means if you feel differently let me know. Am I jaded? Expecting too much of Grisham? Too naive to appreciate a book with a disappointing ending?
My advice: If you’re looking for a big-business trial book, try Grisham’s old school (1997) “The Runaway Jury,” in which a big tobacco company is taken to trial by a grieving widow. I read this book a decade ago and still remember the plot and characters. ”The Appeal,” on the other hand, is about to be forgotten as soon as this post is published!
- Title: The Appeal
- Author: John Grisham
- Publisher: Doubleday
- NovelWhore’s Grade: D