I can remember reading The Rainmaker when I was a young graduate, embarking on a new career into the unknown realities of working life. Grisham’s no-nonsense prose gave me a taste of the disabuses to come.
For those who don’t know the story or haven’t seen the acclaimed film with Matt Damon it is the David and Goliath story of how a dying leukemia patient sues a large insurance company for refusing to pay out his health insurance claim. A litigation with likely complexities, Grisham surges through, delineating the evil from the technical with subtle ease.
It is the scenes where the nervy yet streetwise young lawyer Rudy Baylor, the patient’s lawyer, asserts himself despite his youth and inexperience, and stands up to the lazy complacency of wealth and corporate culture that have seared themselves into my consciousness. Hunger meets greed, justice meets corruption, tragedy overtakes capitalism. Grisham has a knack for putting his finger on the zeitgeist, both within the legal profession and wider society. To me, this work stands proud of his canon because it is not just the story of a thrilling legal and eventually, courtroom battle, or of the moral superiority of justice being applied to those seeming invulnerable to it. More than this, it is the story of how one person and one person alone can change the world if they believe enough, if they fight hard enough, if they preserve their principles and refuse to buckle under the mighty pressure to relinquish them. It is the story of how the idealism of youth is not always a disadvantage; of how persistence can effect sweeping change.
We are living through an age that because of 9/11 and the financial crash of the noughties many of today’s youth are disenfranchised with the old certainties. Perhaps that is one reason we see so many start-ups, so much entrepreneurial spirit rather than a willingness to follow the age-old paths. This book carries that American spirit in spades. Not being afraid to fail – once a vice when working in a large corporation and corporate culture – is now lauded as a virtue. It leads to greater learning than what a supplication to the old truths can deliver. This book embodies that energetic and entrepreneurial flavour. Baylor has never failed before; because he has never played before.
While we root for the young lawyer arguing his case, we do not know if he will succeed. While I will not spoil the denouement, perhaps Baylor’s greatest success is deciding to leave the legal profession altogether.