Monday, June 26, 2006

The Street Lawyer

I haven't posted yesterday's lesson at the Teaching the Kingdom podcast yet, but hopefully this evening. Time seems to be in much higher demand since before Connor...

So, since I don't have that to plug, I thought I'd tell you about a book that I just finished reading: John Grisham's The Street Lawyer. I don't read as many novels as I used to, more theology these days, but I like taking a break every now and then and reading the back of The Street Lawyer really intruiged me.

After a hostage encounter with homeless man that leads to a violent end, high-powered antitrust attorney Michael Brock develops a conscience about the plight of the homeless, quits his job, and becomes a poverty attorney. Of course, taking a top secret file from the firm that has to do with why his capturer was homeless has a lot to do with that.

The book itself is well-plotted, as most Grisham's that I've read are, but what struck me is something that struck me when I read The Testament back in England last year. Grisham's got a conscience. And a heart. In The Testament, the main character has to search for the sole heir to billions of dollars to discover she's a missionary in South America, and ultimately doesn't want the money. Here, a wealthy attorney gives it all up for helping the poor.

I think the thing that fascinated me the most about The Street Lawyer was the question that I have to ask myself everyday. Would I be willing to give up what I have now to do something like that? With my kids and a stay at home wife who works her tail off, could I do that? Or do I salve my conscience by doing Room in the Inn or giving a five to a homeless guy I see on the street. I don't know, but what I do know is that The Street Lawyer really made me think about this, and that's a sign of good writing.


Anonymous said...


I found it preachy, a little too simple, and less than his best work.

But you do are the english teacher.

Phil said...

Well, notice that I never said it was great writing. I thought the divorce/romance was very unevenly done. The romance part felt like an editor said, "This is way too dark. Add some romance in there." I thought the build up to the (spoiler) settlement was pretty well done too. I would have really thought a trial was going to happen if there hadn't been too few pages left in the book.

And it WAS preachy, but I felt it was a parable as well, and Jesus' parables were pretty preachy too (not to equate Grisham with Jesus). What I liked was the fact that a guy who sells millions of books a year put a spotlight on a situation most people would rather ignore.

So I don't disagree with your points, but it seemed like the story was built to highlight the issue of how society treats the homeless, rather than the other way around. And maybe that's not the best way to write (me as the big fiction writer who's sold exactly 0 novels), but I appreciated what he tried to do and what he did.

Adam said...

One of my favorite Grisham books.

Kenneth & Victoria said...

His knowledge of DC geography is horrendous, too. Dupont Circle, the crummy part of town he has to settle for living in because he's so poor, is actually one of the most expensive parts of town--even a cheap studio near there would cost you an arm and a leg. I haven't read the book, but Victoria was incensed that someone with as much disposable income as Grisham wouldn't take a couple of weeks to get to know a city in person before writing about it.


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