Score: 94/100 (9.4 out of 10)
Confessions of an Accidental Lawyer is a hard-hitting, emotional courtroom thriller and family drama. The book actually has two major plots that intersect. First, there's the familial struggles of a young lawyer named Daniel Simmons whose wife's health is a constant concern. His wife, Hannah, still dreams of becoming pregnant again despite being a victim of medical malpractice that destroyed her uterus. Second, there's the huge legal case surrounding an elderly prisoner named Emmett Kendrick whose health is also extremely sensitive and who frequently faces neglect and abuse in prison.
This book is dense. It has a lot to say and a lot to discuss. It covers such issues as parenthood, marriage, the Eight Amendment, the US constitution and constitutional rights, the US prison system, the US legal system, juror and overall bias, and access to healthcare.
Both Daniel and Emmett are excellent protagonists who definitely get the audience behind them. You especially feel for Emmett, a man who seems to have already done his time and more. He has suffered greatly and been treated incredibly unfairly by the prison system, being denied the medications he needs to stay alive and avoid pain and he has been forced into the inhuman conditions of solitary confinement. Any American who believes in human rights and decency will be greatly upset by his treatment in this book. However, they may also find themselves impressed and inspired by his disposition as he politely and legally pursues the betterment of his situation using only his bright mind, patience, and a type writer he rents for $2 a day.
Imagine that: being trapped in cell with only one view of the outside and nothing to do but think and type on an old typewriter. Imagine being in pain constantly and knowing that your heart could give out at any moment? Imagine only being able to shower three times a week and not being able to interact regularly with anyone? It's really miserable to imagine losing all of your apparent rights and freedoms. It makes you wonder: is this really the best we can do as Americans/human beings?
The author has a phenomenal, impressive grasp of both legal and medical knowledge. He must've interviewed so many people involved in the prison system and done so much research. We couldn't help but be blown away by the new things we learned.
Did you know that only 5% of cases go to trial? Did you know that there are prisoners pretty much doing de facto life-sentences (50+ years) for crimes that aren't even considered serious crimes anymore? Did you know that the only way to make a formal grievance from a prison cell is by going through the very people who are mistreating you and who earlier ignored your pleas? Did you know that many lawyers avoid representing prisoners because there's no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow (no money to be gained)? It's incredibly troubling and disturbing to think. That's pretty much hell.
Emmett isn't even asking for much. Emmett isn't asking to be released or to be paid a lot of money, all he wants is regular access to his life-saving medication and to be restrained in a way that doesn't put pressure on his body. Emmett's health is extremely delicate. He is the survivor of a heart attack in prison that the doctors called a “widowmaker”--the kind of heart attack that usually kills people. He has suffered multiple heart attacks and has had heart surgery. A negligent doctor once made an order that almost killed him.
So, you immediately see that there are several parallels between what's happening to Emmett and what's happening to Daniel's wife, Hannah. Hannah's health is also sensitive and is in the precarious state that it's in because of a negligent doctor in Ithaca. Like Daniel, Emmett was a poor, desperate young man who thought he was taking a shortcut to better his life. Only, Emmett became a robber and a prisoner while Daniel became an indebted lawyer.
Now, we have to be honest: Daniel & Hannah's personal issues were not as interesting or compelling to us as Emmett's. That might sound harsh, but Hannah did come across as a bit annoying. Hannah insists on becoming pregnant again, declaring that she wants four children (three more) plus their Labrador. She knows that every single one of these pregnancies have a high likelihood of killing her or the baby, yet she keeps nagging her poor husband about it and putting them in predicaments. She even guilts Daniel, telling him that her dreams of being pregnant again is no less valid that Daniel's career dreams just because it doesn't earn money. Well, lady, not only does it not earn you guys money, it costs you guys money for every in vitro fertilization and puts you and your unborn child at risk of dying—taking up at least one bed (if not two) in a hospital that could be caring for other people who don't control their own destinies. You could choose not to put yourself in that situation, some of those patients can't. Some of them got hit by a car, got assaulted, or fell on a sheet of ice. They didn't plan months in advance to put themselves in a life-threatening situation. Lady, your daughter sleeps with a grapefruit because she's afraid and goes to school looking like a dog because you apparently don't have the time to get her a haircut. Can you take care of what you have first?
This is a situation that's bizarrely familiar to us, though. We can empathize with them both. Still, it just seems like Hannah's whole dilemma is a snowballing problem waiting to happen. If she would just be content with raising the daughter she already has and/or consider adoption, she could save herself and her husband a lot of heartbreak (and possibly her life).
Anyway, if you love courtroom thrillers, this is a superb book.
Check it out on Amazon!
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