The 2008 economic downturn affected even New York lawyers like Samantha who thought she was on a fast track to partner but was abruptly put on furlough. In order to grasp a questionable volunteer opportunity, she retreats to Brady, Virginia, and becomes an intern at the Mountain Legal Aid Clinic, run by Mattie, a local lawyer. On the way, Samantha is arrested and taken to jail for speeding, but is soon released with the help of Donovan (Mattie’s nephew), a lawyer representing coal workers in large disability claims against their employers. Samantha’s adventures in rural Virginia lets her see the coarse tactics of the coal companies, the reliance on guns to solve problems, drug use by the locals, and the satisfaction that comes from helping someone really in need.
Samantha is not without capable contacts—her father was a high-income, personal injury lawyer focusing on airline crashes before he was disbarred, and now runs a consulting company advising other law firms. Her mother (divorced from her father) has a high level position in the Justice Department. Samantha finds Donovan alluring and he even offers her a position, but she sees a lot of similarities between him and her father so she must decide what type of lawyer she wants to be. After all of the trials and adventures in Gray Mountain, there are enough loose ends remaining for John Grisham to write another story about Samantha.