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If you’re looking for something unique from Grisham, this is not your book.  If you love his classic formula of slightly corrupt main character, little guy against big evil corporation, a few twists and turns, and lots of lawyers, you won’t be disappointed.

The AppealGrisham returns to his roots with a classic courtoom/legal drama.  At stake this time is a 40 million plus verdict, handed down by a jury against a negligent chemical company, which is of course appealed to the state supreme court.   Lawyers, politicians, businesspeople and ordinary citizens are pitted against each other, all trying to win for their side.

Although I enjoyed the book on the surface (who doesn’t like a classic good guys vs. bad guys story?), Grisham seemed to be “preaching” in this book much more so than I remember him doing in his previous novels.  (Maybe I’m wrong–it’s been awhile since I’ve read his earlier books).  An example:  At one point, a conservative group is questioning a potential candidate.  The conversation goes like this:

Abortion?  Opposed.  All abortions?  Opposed.

Death penalty? Very much in favor.

No one seemed to grasp the contradiction between the two.

There are many other not-so-subtle digs in the book against conservatives in general, and big business in particular.  In contrast, of trial lawyers, Grisham says, “No one fought as hard for the little guy.”  Grisham’s point in writing the book was to illustrate the influence that private money has when it is allowed in judicial elections.  He could have made this point just as effectively without tarring all businessmen as corrupt, and all conservative Christian groups as blindly supporting anyone who claims to be pro-life.

There are many authors who settle into a comfortable formula, and then crank out books year after year. These books are indistinguishable from one another, and only have slight variations in plot line and character names. As a reader, you may still enjoy reading books by this author, but once you’ve read one of the author’s books, you can fairly accurately predict how all the rest of his or her books will go.

John Grisham is not one of these authors. Although I haven’t always enjoyed his books (I couldn’t even finish Bleachers because it was so incredibly boring), I admire the fact that he takes a chance and writes something different from the formula that made him famous. Pelican Brief, The Firm, and A Time to Kill are some of the legal thrillers for which he is most well known. But then, he’s also written:

  • Skipping Christmas, a humorous and thoughtful look at the excesses of Christmas
  • A Painted House, which tells of a young boy’s struggle to protect his family, and yet do the right thing
  • An Innocent Man, the true story of two men who were convicted of a crime that they did not do

Playing For Pizza: A NovelGrisham’s most recent book, Playing for Pizza, takes yet another turn. Rick Dockery is a has-been NFL quarterback looking for a job. He finds one in the Italian football league (American football, not soccer.) Although there were too many detailed play-by-plays of football games for my taste, I enjoyed the book overall. Rick is a very real character, struggling to find his place in a competitive world, and Grisham’s descriptions of Italy were both charming and accurate.