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The House Girl by Tara Conklin (Adult Fiction)

The House Girl is Tara Conklin’s historical fiction debut. The book has two settings, one in modern day Manhattan and the other in Virginia in 1852 when slavery was being practiced. The book is told through the eyes of two protagonists.  Lina is a fledgling female lawyer living in modern day New York City and struggling to become a partner in a prestigious law firm.  Josephine is a young slave girl in Virginia who is endowed with an immense talent in art and is struggling to simply survive in her living environment.  How these two women and two time periods collide forms the basis for this story.

Lina, a young attorney, is charged with the task of finding a plaintiff to represent the black people who were wrongly enslaved prior to the Civil War. She is to locate this plaintiff and then gain reparations for the descendants of American slaves. This case is seen as a landmark endeavor for her law firm so she is faced with tremendous pressure to be successful. 

Curiously, her father who is an artist, introduces her to the controversy currently surrounding Josephine who allegedly created all the beautiful, extremely valuable paintings being represented as the work of Josephine’s owner. If it could be proven that Josephine was the true artist and a descendant of Josephine’s could be located, Lina would have her perfect plaintiff.

This story is told from both Lina and Josephine’s point of view. It is fast moving and tells a gripping story of making decisions about what really matters in life, how your circumstances can often control your choices,  and finding your own path.

 Gray Mountain by John Grisham (Adult Fiction)

The year is 2008 and Samantha Kofer is an attorney at a Manhattan law firm. Samantha becomes the victim of “downsizing” and is given the option to possibly return to the firm if she spends a year working with a nonprofit for no salary. Unfortunately, this is the fate of many young lawyers at this time and so a desirable nonprofit in terms of location and function is hard to locate. 

Samantha contacts a legal aid clinic in Brady, Virginia, which is located in the heart of Appalachia. She decides to take a job there and is immediately confronted with clients suffering from spousal abuse, drug abuse, and, most markedly, the results of diseases such as black lung attributed to working in coal mines. Samantha becomes embroiled in a battle with the coal companies to help their victims and soon learns how these companies care only about profit and feel no compassion for their workers. 

Grisham makes the reader aware of the environmental devastation being created by strip mining and the harm this does to the land, the water supply, and the humans who live in the area being mined. His book reflects a great amount of time spent researching this issue. 

As Samantha and a local attorney, Donovan, get closer to bringing these companies to justice, the high stakes involved in this litigation become painfully obvious.  Samantha’s increasing involvement with the lives of the people in Brady countered by her desire to be a successful, high-profile corporate attorney help create the plotline for this legal thriller.  

About the Reviewer:

Kathy Larabell, book reviewer and member of the Friends of the San Benito County Library, states, “I am an educator who recently returned from an extensive career in teaching. Most of my teaching time was spent in middle school teaching language arts which I love. Reading has been my passion along with music and travel since I was a young girl. I hope you enjoy these reviews and these wonderful, creative books.”