The Appeal by John Grisham
John Grisham is practically an American institution. This book, The Appeal is a 2008 novel, his twenty-first book and his first fictional legal thriller since 2005.
He is a writer whose best selling status is assured. So assured, in fact, that expectations for each of his new books are as high as can be imagined. However, I am not sure that The Appeal makes the grade. It is very political. I find his works are used more and more to promote his political views. I am not really looking for this in a novel and if Grisham keeps politicizing his books to such a degree, this may be the last one I read.
The story here is one in which the stakes in the novel’s plot are high. It focuses on corporate crime on the largest scale. The lawyers at the centre of the narrative are Mary and Wes Grace, who succeed in a multimillion dollar case against a chemical company. The company has polluted a town with toxic waste. Several agonising deaths followed this. However, the lawyers for the chemical company appeal, and employ a variety of ploys to secure their own ends. It is certainly not clear which way the scales of justice will be finally balanced.
The mechanics of plotting are key, and, as tends to be the case in Grisham’s books the characterisation is functional, not detailed. Still, it keeps the reader totally engaged. Also, notwithstanding John Grisham’s conversion to born-again Christianity, it is intriguing to find an implicit criticism of the moral majority’s religious values.
The storytelling is as straightforward and uncomplicated as ever, few readers will put down The Appeal once they have allowed it to exert its grip on upon them. It is a page turner.
In the “Author’s Note” at the end of the book, Grisham makes clear that the book is entirely fictional, so far as the facts go. However, the descriptions of the issues, tactics, factions and results are real. So, this is a true story told with fictional characters and I am sure Grisham raises some legitimate issues but he totally ignores the opposing arguments.
I will not spoil the book for you by giving away the end of the story. I enjoyed The Appeal but the continual plugging of the author’s political views did get a bit tiresome.