A quirky lawyer fights the good fight in Gayle’s debut novel, a fish out of water tale set in Georgia.
When her romp with a partner at her fancy New York City law firm turns sour, Natalie Goldberg decides to make a big change. The city girl heads to Macon, Ga., to take a job as a public prosecutor, leaving behind skyscrapers and sushi lunches for fried chicken and back porches. The novel gets off to a sluggish start. Natalie is surrounded by southern men who don’t quite know what to make of their fast-talking, liberal coworker. Things heat up when she is assigned to serve as co-council on a murder case, a capital-punishment case and Natalie’s partner is pressing for the death penalty. Natalie leans far left, and must muster enough professionalism to help win the case and prove she belongs. It’s not enough for Natalie to handle herself in the courtroom, though. She must also get over her disastrous affair and start to rebuild her life. This is where Gayle wades knee-deep in cliché, with Natalie learning life lessons while gardening with her sweet southern neighbor, and while helping a coworker’s sister escape an abusive husband. It would take one potent mint julep to enjoy the sappy plot, and the problem is exacerbated by the Georgia setting, which feels inauthentic, as if Gayle skimmed a travel guide for background information.