The Rooster Bar

by John Grisham


Muckraking is not a word that you hear much these days. Think back to your high school literature or social studies class to recall Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle. Rats and rat turds drop from the ceiling beams to become part of canned sausage, management exploits labor, and everybody loses in the end. Although Sinclair’s book failed to establish American Socialism, the author’s primary intention, it did bring about government regulation and oversight to the meat packing industry. Back in 1906 when The Jungle was published, it was still possible for a book to generate attention, public outcry and reform, but today things are, well, different. In the vast sea of media wherein we all but daily drown, where the news cycle is measured in minutes, it is all but impossible for any one blog, tweet, Instagram, website, YouTube video, news commentary, newspaper, magazine—let alone a book—to be heard above the continuous din.

So the chances of John Grisham’s Rooster Bar to actually inducing reform concerning education, student loans, for-profit-schools, impenetrable protective shell companies, corporate greed, the all too perfunctory mechanisms of our punitive justice system including immigration detentions and deportations—are slim. Rooster tackles all of the above and does so with humor and with Grisham’s long-honed skills in producing an easily digested page-turner. The book moves quickly. The plot involves three friends who find themselves close to graduation from The Soggy Bottom lawyer mill (think puppy mill) with no prospects for a job and each owing a heavy student debt. They find that their school’s owner also has his fingers in student loan banking, and they decide to fight the system, go rogue, and go underground. Grisham supplies twists, turns, cliffhangers, moral ambiguity, an intriguing feminist angle, wit—and tacit pleas for reform.

Daydream with me for a moment: A United States Senator happens to find herself reading Rooster Bar to while away a long flight. She becomes intrigued and then incensed by the ugliness and unfairness of how students are lured into mediocre or downright fraudulent schools-for-profit and are soon saddled with unconscionable debt—and, like in a Frank Capra movie, she convinces her fellow lawmakers to forego all lobbied commitments and do the right thing. And Grisham art and intentions are vindicated!


Copyright 2018, Bill Wolf(

The Rooster Bar
by John Grisham
Doubleday, 2017
368 pages, hardcover
List Price: $28.95
ISBN-13: 978-0385541176


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