by Ami Coffin
In a matter of seconds, Michael Brock’s life changes forever. One moment he is riding the elevator up to his plush office in Drake & Sweeney, a high-power DC law firm. The next second, he is in a conference room with several other colleagues. All are being held hostage by a homeless veteran who likes to be called Mister.
Mister doesn’t want to hurt anybody, but he wants to draw awareness to the plight of the homeless. In the short time he is a hostage, Michael learns a lot about himself as well as his own success in comparison to the needy.
The hostage situation is handled (I am being vague so as not to give anything away) and Michael feels a case of the guilts. He’s barely three years from making partner where he will earn a seven-figure salary. And for what? How can he possibly enjoy the rich life when there are starving children in the nation’s capital?
Michael develops an affection for a particular homeless boy, who later dies on the streets. He soon finds out that the very firm for which he works wrongfully evicted the boy’s family. With some anonymous help, Michael locates the file that holds the damning evidence and the confirmed cover-up.
Unfortunately, the boys at Drake & Sweeney know Michael stole the file and they want it back. Michael, along with homeless advocate and lawyer Mordecai Green, are working against the clock to build a case against Drake & Sweeney and the others responsible for the eviction. Can they bring the bad guys to justice before Michael is incarcerated for stealing the file? This is John Grisham’s story of The Street Lawyer.
The title of the book comes from Michael Brock’s new job title. In a swift act of conscience, he goes from successful attorney to poorly-paid lawyer for those who can least afford the services. Though he makes far less money, Michael finally feels like he is making a difference in the world.
Grisham unleashes quite a sermon about homeless plights and rights in this book. I’ve seen more than one reader become upset by this part of the tale. I could write a whole thesis on the possible reasons. My guess is that these folks don’t like feeling guilty about having so much when others have so little.
I make this point because when this heavy dose of preaching is removed from the story, there is not a whole lot left. One guy has a legal file and a big law firm wants it back. The end. That’s not much of a plot, so Grisham had to add the stuff that tugs at the heart strings.
When I compare The Street Lawyer to Grisham’s previous books, I notice a difference. Maybe I am crazy, but it seems as though the author was trying to set up a movie script here. “I’ll write this book and while I’m at it, I’ll steer the story the way I want the movie filmed. It’ll be huge, I tell ya. HUGE!” 1. The homeless story to make us emotional. 2. The legal showdown of good versus evil that Americans love so much. 3. And the little love interest at the end to make everyone feel that his or her $9.00 movie tickets were worth the purchase.
I liked this book. I did not love this book. It’s worth a three star “average” rating. I believe of those that read it, half will like it and half won’t like it. Those that will enjoy the book would read anything Grisham writes. Those that won’t enjoy the book don’t like being told how to react to and feel for a story. It’s that simple. Read The Street Lawyer is you’re so inclined, but your life won’t be shortchanged if you miss it.