Monday, April 14, 2008

The Appeal

John Grisham on occasion writes books with A Point. Not just the exciting, corruption-filled thrill-rides for which he is famous. Now that he has enough money in his pocket, he can address Issues that concern him. I've divided his books between Issues and Merely Fun.

The Appeal
The King of Torts
The Innocent Man
The Testament
The Street Lawyer
The Chamber
A Time to Kill

Merely Fun
Playing for Pizza
The Bleachers
The Broker
The Brethren
The Pelican Brief
A Painted House
The Last Juror
The Summons
Skipping Christmas
The Partner
The Runaway Jury
The Rainmaker
The Firm
The Client

The Merely Fun books typically have gorgeous protagonists, suspenseful action and you don't feel compelled to go out into your local community or government and change things. The Issues books are the opposite. What the characters look like doesn't seem to matter as much and there's always something Grisham is trying to hammer home. I'm not opposed to that. I need things hammered into my brain on occasion. It's just that the Merely Fun books are, well, fun to read and the Issues books are disturbing. Disturbing in the sense of how things can go terribly wrong or how corrupt people or governments can be. But how else would someone like me know about it unless someone like John Grisham wrote about it?

Don't get me wrong, I'm not taking Mr. Grisham's word as gospel truth. That would be as crazy as reading Michael Crichton or Dan Brown to get pure scientific facts, but he brings up issues I wouldn't have even thought about without reading his books. I finished reading "The Appeal" and wanted to know if the state supreme court justices where I live are appointed or elected. The book takes place in Mississippi where I lived for six years and I know that's where Grisham is from originally. I remember in the town where I lived held elections for everything, but I was still so new to the world of voting and functioning as an adult, it didn't occur to me that it might be unusual. Grisham's issue in "The Appeal" is that when you have justices campaigning and taking money from voters, they are unable to be impartial and just in their rulings. This book doesn't feel like most of his action-oriented books. There is suspense, but only because you desperately want the wrong to be righted. There isn't a tidy ending. There isn't a protagonist that dashes from place to place. What Grisham succeeds at is making the reader think. I appreciate having my brain flexed every once in a while, so I think this book is worth reading.


  1. I'm so glad you reviewed this book. I saw it in a bookstore today and wondered about it. I have to admit (should I be ashamed?) that I have never read any of Grisham's books. I've seen some of the movies made from the books, but we all know about movies based on books...
    So, as a newbie to the world of Grisham literature, which book should I read first? One from the "Merely fun" list or one from the "Issues" list?

  2. I would have to say Merely Fun. The Pelican Brief has to be on my all-time favorite list. Female main character, which is rare in Grisham book, typical action and suspense, great ending and the movie is well-done too. A Painted House has nothing to do with lawyers and it's fabulous. If you go with Issues, I'd pick The Street Lawyer because it isn't as sad as some of the others.

  3. I have gotten to be a chicken about reading intense and possibly intensely sad stories that have their roots in the real world. So far I have passed on 'The Appeal'. Maybe sometime I will get my courage up. He is a very thought provoking author. Maybe it is the outage, I think I am going to re-read something a little gentler.

  4. He wrote the Rainmaker as well. I really loved it AND the movie as well

  5. I've got The Appeal on my library list and hopefully I'll get around to it soon. I always wondered about judges and elections too. In Utah, we vote whether or not to retain a judge. They publish a set of stats based on questionnaires filled out by lawyers and other judges and then you, as a voter, can decide whether or not to retain them. Most judges don't have to worry about this. However, there have been several voted out. There was one in Park City who was incredibly lenient with rapists and wife beaters and another who went on power trips in the courtroom.

  6. I think last time I voted in Utah there were 2 pages of judges to be re-elected, and I had NO IDEA what to do. Now my aunt is a judge, and it has made me pay more attention to what kinds of rulings are going on. It makes me want to read The Appeal. And Pelican Brief is my favorite too. The first one I read was The Firm, and as a 16-year-old I was just a little shocked by some of the content. Not so with Pelican Brief. Thanks for reviewing Grisham.