Stephen's Reviews > The Rainmaker

The Rainmaker by John Grisham
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Feb 18, 2012

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bookshelves: audiobook, legal, 1990-1999, popcorn
Read from February 14 to 17, 2012 — I own a copy

“I'm alone and outgunned, scared and inexperienced, but I'm right.”
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Smooth, savvy, satisfying…I think this is my new favorite John Grisham novel. While not heavy on scholarly nuance, it has some depth and is crisp, right-hearted, expertly paced and reads like ice-cold lemonade on the porch in summertime.*

*Please feel free to mentally substitute the simile ‘hot toddy curled up in front of a fire in winter’ if you prefer.

While this page-turner is a very easy read, I wouldn’t call this light as Grisham does a good job infusing the narrative with a sense of importance and emotional attachment vis a vis the characters and the central plot. Grisham knows his subject and has a knack for dispensing highly digestible tales that quickly suck his readers into the middle of the story where they remain engaged until the end.

I can think of worse ways to spend time than reading this author's work.

PLOT SUMMARY:

We meet Rudy Baylor when he has not yet finished his third year of Law School at Memphis State. We get a scratchy taste of the less than glamorous job market search for non-elite students as Rudy is smart, but middle of the pack.

He’s an everyman and we can relate to him and the choices with which he is confronted.
All students enter law school with a certain amount of idealism and desire to serve the public, but after three years of brutal competition we care for nothing but the right job with the right firm where we can make partner in seven years and earn big bucks.

Through a series of missteps, bad luck and the realities of more lawyers than legal positions, Rudy finds himself working for J. Lyman “Bruiser” Stone, a shady, shark-like ambulance chaser who makes serious bank not-so-secretly owning most of the topless bars and nightclubs in Memphis.
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Tip of the cap to Grisham as “Bruiser” is a great character.

Rudy gets teamed up with another wonderful, morally lenient character named Deck Shifflet. Deck has failed the bar six times and basically practices law without a license as a “paralawyer.” Together, we watch two very struggling guys trying to scratch out a living in the overcrowded, lawyer-eat-lawyer world of Memphis Law.

There is a well done blooming romance between Rudy and an abused wife and some comic relief involving a nettlesome grandma out to re-write her will to cut off her ungrateful kin. However, the steak of this meal is a bad faith claim against an insurance company, Great Benefit. The whoreporation wrongfully denied coverage for a bone marrow transplant that would have save Donny Ray Black, a young man dying of Leukemia. We watch Rudy’s trial by fire as he is thrown in the deep end battling the evil insurance company and its massive team of $1000/hr litigators from the “Pole-in-the-Keester” mega law firm.

THOUGHTS:

The inner-workings of the courtroom and legal proceedings are handled lightly with sparse details and the concatenation of circumstances leading to the final verdict do not always rigorously following the realistic as the expense of entertainment. I didn’t have an issue with this because it kept the pacing brisk without bogging the story down in details that I think most readers would find tedious.

The law is not an exciting place.

However, Grisham, to his story-telling credit, creates excitement by populating his tale with a bevy of Southern-flavored characters that feel alive and genuine. I don’t think Grisham gets the credit he deserves for this as it a real gift. In this outing, we have:

**The aforementioned “Bruiser” Stone and Deck Shifflet add much color to the proceedings.

**Dot Black, the chain-smoking, embittered mother of Donny and her husband Buddy, a war veteran who is quietly drunk 24/7. This description may not make them sound likeable, but they are and they are devastated by their son’s illness.

**Kelly Riker, the smart, beautiful 19 year-old trapped in a horrible marriage with her drunk, abusive husband who’s angry at the world because his dreams of being a pro athlete never materialized.

**Judge Tyrone Kipler, the sympathetic judge who hates insurance companies and provides Rudy with valuable assistance and advice.
These characters elevate the novel above the “just another bag of popcorn” legal thriller. I enjoyed myself reading this and will certainly pick up another Grisham book in the future.

Before I wrap up, a quick word on the film/movie comparison.

I had previously seen the movie adaptation of this novel and, like _A Time to Kill, I think the movie outshined its source. Very little had to be cut from the movie and Coppola did a great job of translating the tone of the story. Plus, with casting like Danny DeVito playing Deck Shifflet and Mickey Rourke as “Bruiser” Stone, the book had a pretty big uphill stroll to compete.

Even years later, I remember the scene in the movie where Shifflet (DeVito) is pressuring an auto accident victim in traction and a lot of pain to sign up with him as his lawyer. When he finally gets the gut to relent (mostly to get rid of him) Shifflet walks away with an air punch saying, “Were gonna get you a bunch a money.”
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What a classic, classic lawyer line and I was happy to see that line was in the book as well.

Anyway, the book is still very good and I did prefer the novel’s ending more than the movie. The endings are not significantly different, but Rudy Baylor’s outlook on the legal profession is put in much starker light in the book and I found that to be superior to the somewhat ambiguous handling of the film.

In sum, if you’ve seen the movie, you are not missing much by not reading the book…not much except a well-written, entertaining story. You can decide. For me, the book was worth it and I enjoyed myself.

3.5 stars. Recommended.
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Comments (showing 1-30 of 30) (30 new)

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message 1: by Richard (new)

Richard Derus I had previously seen the movie adaptation of this novel and, like _A Time to Kill, I think the movie outshined its source. Very little had to be cut from the movie and Coppola did a great job of translating the tone of the story. Plus, with casting like Danny DeVito playing Deck Shifflet and Mickey Rourke as “Bruiser” Stone, the book had a pretty big uphill stroll to compete.

Wow, that's a rare statement to hear from a bookaholic. Really liked the review, of course, though I won't be reading the book since I've seen the movie.


Stephen Richard wrote: "Wow, that's a rare statement to hear from a bookaholic. Really liked the review, of course, though I won't be reading the book since I've seen the movie."

I know. It doesn't happen all that often, but there have been a handful. I thought the movie version of Fight Club was better than the book and also preferred the movie versions of the LOTR trilogy to the novels. I'm sure there are a few more that are not springing to mind.


message 3: by Richard (new)

Richard Derus Stephen wrote: "I'm sure there are a few more that are not springing to mind."

For me, as heretical as it is to say it, The Maltese Falcon and The Thin Man were better movies than books. At the risk of driving you away from friendship forever, I also think the movie of To Kill a Mockingbird packed more wallop and had more going for it than the book did.

I must have some major character flaw.


Stephen I don't see any character flaws there. I haven't seen or read The Thin Man (that is a flaw on my part) but can't quibble with prefering the movie version of MF. It's Bogie after all. I preferred the novel but not by so wide a margin as you might think. I also preferred the book to the movie version of To Kill a Mockingbird but Gregory Peck was so, so good that, again, the margin is not that great. Those are truly exceptional adaptations.

There are a number of "on the fence" books that I think both the source book and the movie are within a narrow margin. The Grifters and The Silence of the Lambs to name two.


message 5: by Richard (new)

Richard Derus Stephen wrote: "I don't see any character flaws there. I haven't seen or read The Thin Man (that is a flaw on my part) but can't quibble with prefering the movie version of MF. It's Bogie after all. I..."

I'd add another fencer, then: The Dead, the story's good and the movie's extraordinarily good. Oh, and Babette's Feast...the movie was so so beautiful, and the story a lot more gritty, like badly washed spinach.

CERTAINLY agree on The Grifters! I can't read Silence because Thomas Harris scared me out of ten years' growth when I read Red Dragon. Can't even pick his books up now.


Stephen I haven't yet read Schindler's List but I would be shocked if the movie didn't represent it incredibly well. As far as our good buddy Sai King, I would say that Stand by Me The Body , The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile were equally pleasing both in print and the screen.


message 7: by Robert (new)

Robert Howards End the movie is better...the "LOTR" movies were a travesty - sometime someone should try adapting the books...


Stephen I haven't read Howard's End yet, but I loved the movie. Disagree on the LOTR though. I think I give the edge to the book in the first one because I love Tom Bombadil and was sorry not to see him in it, but I thought movies 2 and 3 were better than the books (especially the director's cuts).


message 9: by Robert (last edited Feb 17, 2012 04:23PM) (new)

Robert Haha - I was winding you up! I am EBIL!


message 10: by Lea (new)

Lea Stephen wrote: "I haven't yet read Schindler's List but I would be shocked if the movie didn't represent it incredibly well. As far as our good buddy Sai King, I would say that [book:Stand by Me The..."

Spot on with King (and Fight Club, as well)!

I won't be reading this book, but I might look up the movie -- I love the picture of Mickey Rourke, and I'd like to see him in this role!


Stephen Robert wrote: "Haha - I was wnding you up! I am EBIL!"

You got me full on with that one, Robert. I should have guessed but I didn't. EBIL you are.


Stephen Lea wrote: "I won't be reading this book, but I might look up the movie -- I love the picture of Mickey Rourke, and I'd like to see him in this role!"

I think you'll like it, Lea. Good cast (Matt Damon, Mickey Rourke, Danny DeVito, Claire Danes, Jon Voight and John Glover) and directed by Francis Ford Coppola.


message 13: by Robert (new)

Robert Oh yeah - I agree about Fight Club movie better than book - but I saw the movie first so I don't really know if the MPD was telegraphed in the book.


message 14: by Anthony (new) - added it

Anthony Chavez Stephen wrote: "Lea wrote: "I won't be reading this book, but I might look up the movie -- I love the picture of Mickey Rourke, and I'd like to see him in this role!"

I think you'll like it, Lea. Good cast (Mat..."


Wow Likewise I don't know why I haven't seen this movie yet. Definitely will look it up.


Duffy Pratt The Godfather movie is way better than the book. (Both parts one and two, but especially part one).

Jaws is way better than the book, not even close.

The Shining is also better than the book, but I can understand how people might disagree.

A Clockwork Orange is a close call. Both are equally amazing.


Stephen I haven't read The Godfather but I have to believe the movie wins that one hands down. One of the best series ever (I'm one of the few who even liked Part III, though Parts I and II were basically perfect).

Same for Jaws...haven't read the book but agree with you in the dark on that one.

Shining, I liked both but do think I give the nod to the movie. Jack Nicholson is just too good in that one.

Clockwork Orange was one of the best adaptations I've ever seen. I don't know that I would rate it better than the novel, but man did Kubrick do a great job capturing the tone of the book. Great film making.


message 17: by Anne (Booklady) (new)

Anne  (Booklady) Molinarolo I stopped reading Grisham when he opened his mouth and proclaimed his politics. I want authors to write and entertain me, not pontificate at me, especially when I dislike the celebrity's politics and made to feel like an idiot because I don't agree with said celebrity.

LOL, Stephen I just started a re-read of The Godfather by Mario Puzo!


Stephen I hear you, Anne. I assiduously avoid the politics of every author I read because I agree with so few of them. I love reading too much to allow "off the page" issues to dampen my reading variety.


message 19: by Anne (Booklady) (new)

Anne  (Booklady) Molinarolo Stephen wrote: "I hear you, Anne. I assiduously avoid the politics of every author I read because I agree with so few of them. I love reading too much to allow "off the page" issues to dampen my reading variety."

I hear you my friend, BUT Grisham did it TO MY FACE at a book signing 2 years ago...Not Cool!


Stephen No way...what an ass. That is very not cool. Now THAT would get me to permanently avoid said writer.


message 21: by Anne (Booklady) (last edited Feb 17, 2012 06:14PM) (new)

Anne  (Booklady) Molinarolo Stephen wrote: "No way...what an ass. That is very not cool. Now THAT would get me to permanently avoid said writer."

God's honest truth! Grisham will never get 1 second of my time nor 1 more cent from me. He's an ass in person, Stephen.
Vince Flynn and Brad Thor are SUPER NICE! I met both men :)


Abhishek This book is one of Grisham's early works and definitely one of his best. I somehow find his books written pre-2000 to be drastically different that the later ones, the former being so much better - A Time to Kill, Pelican Brief, Chamber, Rainmaker, Runaway Jury and so on. And Grisham must have probably seen one of the highest book to movie conversion rates too! Enjoyed the movie... loved the book. Good review (should have given a 4, mate! :P).


Stephen Abhishek wrote: "Good review (should have given a 4, mate! :P)..."

Thanks, Abhishek. It was very close to 4 stars for me but I ended up being stingy and calling it 3.5.


message 24: by Apatt (new)

Apatt Nice one Stephen! What is your second favorite Grisham then?


Stephen I think it would be A Time to Kill but I've only read three of them (the other being The Firm).


Abhishek Stephen wrote: "I think it would be A Time to Kill but I've only read three of them (the other being The Firm)."

You gotta get hold of Runaway Jury. It's my favourite of the lot! So fast that it blows the mind away... Nice movie too with the likes of John Cusack, Rachel Weisz, Dustin Hoffman & Gene Hackman (wow!)


message 27: by Tilly (new)

Tilly Slaton Great book


Stephen Definitely my favotire so far, Tilly.


Stephen Abhishek wrote: "You gotta get hold of Runaway Jury. It's my favourite of the lot! So fast that it blows the mind away... Nice movie too with the likes of John Cusack, Rachel Weisz, Dustin Hoffman & Gene Hackman (wow!)."

I saw the movie and really enjoyed it. Glad to hear the book is excellent as well.


message 30: by Nico (new) - rated it 3 stars

Nico This is the 2nd review I've read by you, Stephen. I also gave Rainmaker 3 stars, but mine are a solid 3. I'd say primarily entertainment value stars, and readability. I was much less generous in my review, and found certain story-line tactics in the book unpalatable. (Feel free to see my review, but beware I don't have the superb writing style you do!).


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