Saturday, April 17, 2021

‘The Rooster Bar’ by John Grisham




“Now she could only watch them and wonder what happened.”

What makes “The Rooster Bar” such a great book?

Okay, so here’s how it happened. When I was sitting in the airport, I noticed a woman reading a hardcover, to the exclusion of everything else going on around her. I mean, her husband, the children, a small dog… none of that outside noise drew her attention away from the book. At least, that’s the way it appeared from my limited point of view. But that being the case, I had to know what she was reading. So, despite my being a sometimes irrationally private person, I stooped down and caught a glance at the cover, and then I continued to watch her read, her fingers flipping the pages, her eyes never wavering beyond the edges of the book. I had to read what she was reading.



Degree mill or… If there was another option for the Foggy Bottom Law School, I’m relieved Grisham didn’t choose it. The storyline is impeccable as is, and the plot works so well with a third-tier, for-profit law school. Especially since the book revolves around Mark, Todd, and Zola, three students contemplating quitting law school months before graduation in order to expose a scam involving a shady New York hedge-fund operator and a bank specializing in student loans.

The book opens in Mark’s point of view, in his last semester in law school, giving the reader a clear understanding of his problems: troubled brother, beat up Bronco, and crushing school debt. His motivations for attending law school included overhearing a conversation where two people discussed starting D.C. salaries for lawyers at $150,000 and the fact that the Feds seemed to be throwing school loans at people. These two catalysts gave him the confidence to pursue the law degree, leaving him with a debt totalling $266,000, undergraduate and graduate, principal and interest.

Grisham proceeds with similar introductions for Todd and Zola, but it isn’t until Gordy makes an appearance that things get moving. Gordy is the one who uncovers the law school scam–that billionaire Hinds Rackley owns the school and the bank specializing in student loans, and that he is using the students in the for-profit law firm to bankroll his lifestyle.

Now, here’s where the review gets tricky. Without giving any of the good bits away, Gordy disappears from the picture, leaving Mark, Todd, and Zola with the information and the risk if they expose the scam.

“Can you sell an interest in a lawsuit?”

The characters are well-written, and their motivations for the way they behave are believable. There’s humor and wit evident on the pages. Pouncing and scrounging ensue, along with ambulance-chasing and observing federal cases tried by real lawyers. There’s also a sort of sadness in the way the plot unfolds, leaving the intended dreams behind them as they march forward toward a new goal. They skirt the edges of their own moral compasses, and they question themselves at every corner. This uncertainty is what keeps the story interesting, and it is the journey, not the ending, that makes this book great, in my opinion.

So how do you find books to read? I always wonder how, beyond recommendations from friends, people decide to spend their time immersed in the pages of a book. Do you browse bookstores? Search bestsellers online? Snoop in airports to see what other people are reading?

As always, thanks for your time!

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Marisa Cleveland loves to laugh, hates to cry, and does both often. She has a master’s degree from George Mason University and joined The Seymour Agency after she ended an eight-year career teaching students language arts, grades 6-12. Previous to teaching, she worked as an assistant director for a graduate school in Washington, D.C., before settling in Southwest Florida over a decade ago. As a former gymnast, cheerleader, and dancer, she understands the importance of balance, and she encourages everyone to stay flexible. Cleveland is a Leadership Marco 2015 alum, and she loves connecting with other readers through social media. Though she’s a painfully private introvert, she can be reached through her website: or follow her journey on Twitter: @marisacleveland.

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