Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Book Review: The Rainmaker

A Fair Trade Book

Title: The Rainmaker
Author: John Grisham

Author's web page:
Date: 1995
Publisher: Doubleday
ISBN: 0-385-42473-6
Length: 443 pages
Quote: “My decision to become a lawyer was irrevocably sealed when I realized my father hated the legal profession.”
With this line, Grisham’s protagonist/narrator, Rudy, begins an exploration of the male psyche that runs deeper than some critics like to admit. As a story about a lawsuit, The Rainmaker is unlikely. As a study of the fantasy lives of gifted young men, it’s wonderfully frank.
I inherited this novel from my husband, who usually read only nonfiction and mysteries. I don’t remember his ever talking about it, and suspect it may have been a gift from someone who’d heard about his interest in Tony Hillerman’s Navajo-country mystery series. If so it was a mistake. There are no Navajos in The Rainmaker, nor is there a drought, nor much hope of a drought—it’s set in muggy Memphis . Rudy is what contemporary corporate jargon called a “rainmaker,” meaning “someone who can generate a lot of revenue for the corporation.” Part of the comic relief in his story is that he’s never allowed to generate revenue for a corporation, even though he could...Grisham is not known as a comic writer, but he has his moments.
Rudy nearly misses his chance to become a lawyer—ironically, because he shows signs of talent. As a student, he was one of the more promising members of his class, and was therefore offered a position with a local firm. The firm then sold out to an even bigger and more prestigious firm, and, just before graduation, the job promised to Rudy was cut from the company’s list. As The Rainmaker begins we find Rudy freshly jilted by a brilliant but heartless law school classmate and so desperate for work that he pleads with one of the older attorneys in town that a J.D. ought to be qualified for a paralegal position.
Even if his motivation for practicing law is not a true vocation, Rudy is bright. He soon finds himself taking on what appears to be a challenging case against the firm that denied him the job he’d been offered. He perseveres, and what initially seems impossible becomes what even cautious Rudy admits is “a slam dunk.” Playing the David-and-Goliath angle for all it’s worth, he wins the biggest award of punitive damages in the history of the state. It doesn’t hurt anything, of course, that upon investigation his client becomes more sympathetic, and his opponent’s client more dastardly, than one can readily imagine real litigants to be. Rudy wouldn’t know how to make his opponents look like disgraces to the name of “slime mold,”  nor does he try; they make themselves look that way, because they really are.
Then, instead of behaving like a Real Lawyer, Rudy suddenly begins behaving like a Real Guy Who Could Do Anything He Wanted To Do When He Was Twenty-Five. Having triumphed in law, he becomes a sort of modern-day outlaw. I don’t want to spoil the suspense, but let’s just say that any resemblance between Rudy and any real lawyer living or dead is purely coincidental.
It's an enjoyable read if you're adult enough to enjoy stories about work, anyway, and I recommend giving it to anyone who's ever nagged that you should have gone to law school so that you could be making more money now. As a Fair Trade Book, it will cost $5 for the book, $5 for shipping (one shipping charge covers as many books as can be shipped in one package), and out of this total of $10 John Grisham or a charity of his choice gets $1. If you want to encourage a madly successful novelist, buy this book here. If you want to encourage a more obscure writer, feel free to use the comment space to suggest one.