rachel's Reviews > The Associate

The Associate by John Grisham
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's review
Dec 03, 2010

it was ok
bookshelves: own, 2010

Boy, that John Grisham really can write!

By that, I mean that he is capable of putting nouns, verbs, and punctuation in order to form sentences, because that is what The Associate is: basically just a lot of sentences. Sentences describing parties, lunches, bed linens, apartment interiors, and hunting trips, with half-assed attempts at intrigue and characterization thrown in here and there. Of course that's what "comfort fiction" and "beach reads" are all about. But I had it in my head from reading The Client and The Chamber when I was younger that Grisham could write a sort of thrilling legal mystery too.

One thing that Grisham CANNOT do, if this book is really representative of "vintage Grisham," is build a character on anything except cliches. This would be another excellent reason to avoid Ford County (its garish paperback cover is number one), although I have to admit that I was curious about the idea of a non-genre Grisham book that's mercifully not about Christmas, football, or pizzas.

So, here we've got the Hispanic ex-gang member (of course) who's made it his life's work to help alcoholic frat boys reform and who also sort of resembles Che Guevara when he wears a beret (that Grisham actually wrote this sentence is still cracking me up). We've got the tough, man-hating female lawyer named "Mike," who we're told has multiple divorces under her belt and represents the book's lesbian client while outfitted in black leather and stilettos, the product of either a BDSM-LGBTQ combo fantasy run amuck or casual sexism or maybe both. We've got the hot blonde female lawyer who, despite being cold and reclusive, is sleeping with Kyle in less than 100 pages and whose back (her BACK) is described as "trim with a nice curve to it" or something crazy like that. The thing about all of these stereotypes is that they're all just a little bit wacky, and this makes me think that Grisham is sincerely trying and sincerely out of touch. When I got to the part where Kyle tells hot blonde lawyer that he'll watch "anything but a chick flick" with her, I found that I wasn't even irritated at this (definite) casual sexism. I just flicked my wrist and thought, "John Grisham, you cad!"

SPOILERS from here on out:

With regard to the legal intrigue that's only intriguing for the first 50 pages and probably about 75 towards the end, I have nothing else to say except that the ending is HILARIOUS.

For those of you who haven't read the book, I'm going to summarize what happens now: top Yale law student Kyle is blackmailed into spying on a top law firm from within, by villians of high intelligence and indeterminate motive. This motive remains undetermined through the ending -- so, thanks a lot for that, Grisham -- but along the way they follow Kyle's every move, wiretap his apartment, assassinate one of his college friends in a gas station bathroom, and manage to foil the FBI coming to take them down. Kyle is terrified of them with good reason. Yet, at the very end of the book, when the bad guys have gotten away, Kyle "heroically"....turns down the security of the witness protection program??? Because he assumes the bad guys have fled??? And decides that he's just going to go back home and get on with his normal life after thoroughly pissing off the guys who assassinated his friend and who just eluded capture???

The last sentence of this book is "They shook hands and said goodbye, and Roy watched [Kyle] stride nonchalantly along Broad Street and disappear around a corner." I know that Grisham intended for this to be such a badass moment, but I felt like the unfinished continuance of that sentence should be "where he was then shot." No one is that stupid. Kyle is a Yale graduate. A lawyer! Was terrified of these people a few chapters ago! It's like Grisham wrote up to page 415, had an aneurysm, and went back to finish it off without rereading.

This book is not not terrible. But I can't give it the one star that it probably deserves. I laughed a lot. I craved pizza at the appropriate moments. It served its purpose. Bravo, John Grisham.
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Reading Progress

11/21/2010 page 41
9.0% "My dad just called me a book snob. I showed him what I'm currently reading. Point somehow still not made?"
11/30/2010 page 265
61.0% "Started out sort of bad, became not so bad, and now we're deep into bad again. Deeper. John Grisham, trotting out every stereotype in place of characterization! The lesbian has a hardass female lawyer named "Mike". The Hispanic character is an ex-gang member helping a rich white frat boy kick his alcohol addiction. Wonderful."
12/01/2010 page 350
81.0% "The goofy attempts at characterization have stopped and the action has started. Enjoying that! Except now I have to go to work instead of finishing it like I'd like to, boo."
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Comments (showing 1-8 of 8) (8 new)

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message 1: by Zach (new)

Zach I never would have pegged you for a Grisham reader Rachel! I've never read anything by him but I loved the movie A Time to Kill. Highly recommended!

message 2: by rachel (last edited Nov 21, 2010 07:31PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

rachel I haven't read anything of his since I was in jr high, but back then I did read and enjoy quite a few -- The Client, The Firm, and The Chamber especially. I said this to my dad, but it's all about expectations. I know I'm not going to be blown away by characterization or realism but I think I will probably be entertained?

I also like Jeffrey Deaver and Patricia Cornwell. Well, their older books at least.

EDITED: Oh, in case you're thinking of reading any Grisham, I would NOT recommend The Runaway Jury. That's the one that I started reading when it was relatively new and it was so terrible I couldn't continue about 1/4 of the way in.

message 3: by Zach (new)

Zach I'll keep that in mind. I've always wanted to read A Time to Kill & see how much it's like the movie. I almost started A Maiden's Grave by Deaver. Have you read it?

rachel I haven't yet. With Deaver, I've just read the Lincoln Rhyme series up through about The Vanished Man & would recommend if you like forensic or police procedural sorts of books.

message 5: by Melissa (new)

Melissa "Where he was then shot." Hilarious.

message 6: by Mariel (new)

Mariel This review is great. I haven't touched a Grisham since the early '90s. Don't think that is going to change.

rachel Yeah, reading this tempted me to go back and read a Grisham "classic" to see if it was this bad all along. It probably wasn't. One would hope.

message 8: by Dorothy (new)

Dorothy The only Grisham book I've ever read was "The Painted House" which I enjoyed quite a lot. I've seen one or two of the movies based on his books and enjoyed them, but somehow I've just never been able to get interested in reading his formulaic thrillers. Reading your review sort of confirms me in that lack of interest.

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