Catherine Taber does not do male voices. Any attempt is barely discernible and lame, at best. In conversations that include a male voice, it is difficult to decide who-is-talking-to-who, a listener nightmare of re-wind hell. John Grisham has a history of using narrators like Michael Beck or Scott Brick, and others who are stellar at their trade of voice-over or audiobook narration. I frown at my iPhone and wonder why Grisham went with Catherine Taber. Maybe, given that the lead character, the POV, in Gray Mountain is a woman? Although sweet, clear in diction, nice pacing, Catherine Taber’s voice is much more suited to young adult or children’s books. Her voice is child-like, teenaged, valley-girlish. Nothing against her … the reading is okay, but her voice simply doesn’t work for Gray Mountain, at all. Bad choice.
So, to those contemplating the audio version of Gray Mountain, do your best to ignore the reader and focus on the story itself.
Samantha, the lead character, is caught in the New York collapse of the financial world of a few years ago. Lay off from her job as a junior associate lawyer is the catalyst to a job at not-for-profit legal aid clinic in the boondocks of coal country. Black lung, crooked strip mining companies, and desperate poor people traverse the pages of a novel that is very typical of John Grisham. All of Grisham’s books involve characters and the locale of the deep south, i.e., A Time to Kill and Sycamore Row and A Painted House, etc. Write what you know is taken seriously with Grisham, as is the New England area with Stephen King.
Grisham has an incredible understanding and knowledge of the legal arena and of the southern psyche. His deep love of the south is very apparent in his words, his insight is a pleasure to read.
Gray Mountain is a David-vs-Goliath story, big coal company skulduggery vs the desperate little guy. The story is a bit longer than necessary, scenes and side-plots having little, if anything, to do with the story arc, but considering the arena of the Grisham books, this one fits in well. If you’re a fan of Grisham, you will enjoy the story.