Thursday, February 12, 2009

Taking it to the Street


I've been suffering through a nasty cold that's lingering on a bit past its prime. Unheard of for me, I even left the office early yesterday and got a bit of rest. I also did a little reading & finally thinned my book pile by one.

After a violent incident involving a homeless man occurs at the big DC firm where Michael Brock works, his world -- and high living life style -- suddenly is meaningless, along with his marriage. He discovers a secret that ties the firm to Mister, the homeless man who took several of the lawyers at the firm hostage and his attempt to gather evidence of the misdeed leads to his theft of a client file.

After he departs from the firm, and his chance at partnership, Brock joins a legal clinic and becomes an advocate for the homeless, which gives him a perspective on a world he never even noticed before. Along with Mordecai Green, the driven lawyer who runs the clinic, they try to solve the plight of the homeless and expose the firm's wrongdoing. Reviewing the book, the Pittsburgh Post Gazette describes Green:

[A] firebrand in his early 50s who represents the poorest of the poor. He educates Michael and the reader about the elimination of low-cost housing and the trend in America to criminalize homelessness.

"The big cities have passed all sorts of laws designed to persecute those who live on the streets. Can't beg, can't sleep on a bench, can't camp under a bridge, can't store personal items in a public park, can't sit on a sidewalk, can't eat in public," Mordecai says, before moving on to "sweeps" such as the one that removed homeless people from Atlanta's streets before the Summer Games.

"The Street Lawyer" is not just a primer on the poor. It's a legal thriller about Drake & Sweeney's connection to the hostage-taker - it wouldn't be a Grisham book without a corporate conspiracy or cover-up - and how Michael puts his very livelihood on the line.

The book was written over 10 years ago, but the novel, The Street Lawyer, is especially timely today in these dire economic times, addressing the issue of homelessness. In his usual fast paced, page-turner style, Grisham depicts homelessness in a sympathetic, yet realistic manner, showing the degree of research he did for the novel.

I think the January Magazine Review sums it up best: "The suspense and tight drama that readers of earlier Grisham novels lapped up like so much honeyed milk is absent from The Street Lawyer. And though this is not an inferior novel, it reads more like a Jerry Maguire than a Firm or a Pelican Brief. A feel-good movie with masculine themes; a Fried Green Tomatoes for guys."

2 comments:

phillygrrl said...

Love Grisham! And I recommend One Book, One Philadelphia's selection this year if you're interested in the issue of homelessness - The Soloist.

JudiPhilly said...

Oh yes, that book is definitely on my list. I read a few of Steve Lopez' columns at the LA Times when he first wrote about this guy.

One of the women in my office read it & attended his reading at the Free Library last month. I didn't borrow her copy, because I wanted to have my own.