Gray Mountain by John Grisham – Book Review

I need to start out by saying that I love John Grisham. He writes so well, and he has the ability to simply knock every book out of the ballpark; okay, enough gushing. In this book his main character is a woman named Samantha Kofer, a lawyer who has lost her job due to the 2008 bank meltdown. She’s a hard-headed New Yorker, who decides almost against her will to work for a non-profit law firm in Appalachia. Here she is introduced to the impact of strip mining, coal and the life of everyday Americans who are living below the poverty line.


This is the story of Kofer’s awakening to what life is really all about for the majority of Americans. After all, she grew up extremely privileged in D.C., the daughter of a very famous (also infamous) trial lawyer; and her mother is a federal lawyer with a guaranteed job who refuses to understand the impact of the economic realities faced by the majority of Americans. Her life so far has been going according to plan, but now she’s faced with the unwelcome realization that life has been changed, possibly forever, by the actions of the bankers.

This book is a primer on the power of the rich, the realities of what coal mining does to the people who live in the region, and how the system is rigged in favor of the wealthy against the lives of the poor. It’s an eye-opener, that is told as a story that makes you care for the characters; and root for the underdog. I learned much more about the impact of strip mining, but not in a “preachy” manner. Grisham never turns this book into a lecture; he presents the facts as an integral part of the story and lets the characters speak for themselves. I highly recommend this book. Read it and think about our relationship to the earth and each other.

If you are interested in learning more about the impacts of coal and strip mining, I wrote a post about it on my other blog, transforminglifenow.  You can read the post here:


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