Schnaucl's Reviews > The Appeal

The Appeal by John Grisham
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Jan 12, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: borrowed, fiction, january, read_2009, recommended_reading
Read in January, 2009

** spoiler alert ** John Grisham has improved a lot since the last book of his that I read, which, granted, was probably The Pelican Brief. There are still an abundance of characters, but this time I didn't have trouble keeping track of them. There were fewer superfluous scenes or random one off scenes from a character that is never heard from again. His story telling is certainly tighter than it once was.

His style is still very objective, however, and it made it difficult to connect with the characters in a meaningful way. I wish he had stayed more with the Paytons and let us see what they were going through and the emotions they were experiencing.

I think the campaign was a pretty accurate portrayal of what can happen in judicial elections. I'm still not convinced that appointment is any better, however. Especially since all big business and the insurance companies have to do is fund the seat of the person who would appoint the jurors (Bush and the massive appointments of conservative justices, anyone?). It's practically a twofer. But there's certainly a lot of out of state money and the truth is that most people have no idea who the judges are and don't really care anyway. I work in the legal field and I have trouble knowing who some of the judges are, the difference is that I have a pretty good idea of where to find more information and a motivation for doing so.

I absolutely think that the moderate to left leaning justices get most of their funding from trial lawyers and unfortunately, they just don't have as deep pockets as big business and the insurance industry. And the insurance industry and big business have done a great job of convincing the American public that "frivolous lawsuits" are cloggging the courts and a waste of time and money. Nevermind that personal injury and malpractice cases in general make up a very small percentage of cases the court hears (divorce cases are a much bigger factor in terms of court time than personal injury and malpractice cases).

The court manipulations as portrayed by Grisham are pretty typical, I think. Groups form PACs and 501c entities that are really just a front for a big interest (and yes, trial lawyers do it, too). The stuff with the bank I can see happening very rarely in the highest levels. But the disparity in resources between the plaintiff's attorney and the insurance company or many businesses? Oh yeah, that's absolutely real.

I'm still conflicted about the ending. I really wanted things to work out for the Paytons, but I think it's more realistic the way Grisham wrote it. And maybe it'll make people think.

If he'd wanted to present a more balanced view he could have absolutely spent more time on the people who joined the class action who really had no injuries but wanted a piece of the pie. I would have had no problem with that.
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