Very good. John Grisham is a master story-teller and this book doesn't disappoint.
Mr K-E read this first and he thought it was very good. He hassled me into reading it as soon as I had finished The Loyal Character Dancer because he wanted to talk about it!
The book was made into a movie in 1997, with Matt Damon playing the main protagonist Rudy Baylor. I haven't watched the movie, but I'm a big fan of Matt Damon so I could picture him clearly in my mind's eye.
When the book starts, Rudy Baylor is a young impoverished student in Memphis trying to survive the last few months of law school before starting work in a medium sized firm. After years of working all hours to fund himself through college, it looks like there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Then, bad luck strikes - his future employer is bought out by another company and there is no place for Rudy in the new office. It is the end of semester and all the available jobs have been filled.
These are desperate times. Rudy is a good student, in the top third of his year, but not good enough for the big prestigious law firms. Add his trailer trash background and his chances of finding a job are even slimmer. The rejections and humiliations pile up around him, until finally he has no choice but to work for the infamous Bruiser Stone - a dodgy lawyer deeply involved in the "skin trade" i.e topless bars and prostitution. To his horror, he finds himself as the worst kind of lawyer - the ambulance chaser.
In the midst of all his woes, our naive lawyer stumbles onto the case of his career. He meets the Blacks, whose son Donny Ray is dying of leukemia. Donny Ray is "lucky" because he is an identical twin - and therefore he is an ideal candidate for a bone marrow transplant. His parents have been paying for health insurance for years and this is their only hope.
However, the big bad insurance company Great Benefit refuses to fund the transplant, finding all sorts of reasons to deny the claim, until finally it is too late for Donny. His mother shows the 8th denial letter to Rudy - unbelievably, part of it reads "...this is the 8th time we are denying the claim...you must be stupid, stupid, stupid...".
The "stupid" letter inflames Rudy and he resolves to fight for the Blacks : to represent this poor white trash couple and their doomed son.
The David vs Goliath theme is the main plot of the book. Interesting secondary characters, a likeable hero, a seemingly invincible opponent and quick, tight writing - it all combines to make an excellent read. Grisham's descriptions of the legal system and courtroom procedure are absorbing, even the courtroom scenes, which could easily turn tedious.
The book is also painfully funny in parts - Grisham pokes fun at the "initialed and numeralled" lawyers from big firms (Leo F. Drummond and F. Franklin the Fourth) as well as the ambulance-chasing deadbeat lawyers who hang around accident scenes.
Overall, highly recommended. A nice easy read; quick plotting and good story-telling.