Ferrendelli (Dead Wrong, 2015) offers a compelling novel about a lawyer who grapples with a trauma from her past while skillfully representing disabled clients.
Jaime Monroe is a plucky young lawyer working in the Denver district attorney’s office. At the start of the book, she makes a splash by successfully convicting a man who’d raped and murdered his girlfriend’s disabled 15-year-old daughter. After this landmark victory, Jaime is asked to handle a case for another disabled client—24-year-old Ashleigh Roberts, whose mother, prominent journalist Leigh Roberts, wants to have her sterilized to avoid the risk of an accidental pregnancy. Despite her mental disability, Ashleigh is relatively high-functioning with a “sixth grade” intellectual capacity and an IQ of 75, and she doesn’t want her mother to have control over her reproductive decisions. Jaime resigns from the DA’s office and begins practicing privately in order to handle Ashleigh’s case, and while preparing for the hearing, she becomes enmeshed in the worlds of the Roberts family and Ashleigh’s group home, Morningside Heights. Jaime begins to feel tenderly toward Ashleigh, as if she were her little sister, and feels passionately about advocating for her. However, although she enjoys the time she spends with her client, it also evokes painful memories for her, as her own little sister, Sarah, died in a car accident years before. Jaime must learn to cope with her grief and guilt while successfully handling a difficult case. Ferrendelli’s novel examines a unique issue: the reproductive rights of disabled people, which, as one character explains, “are, to put it mildly, riddled with social and ethical questions, controversial as they are complex.” She also creates a very likable main character in Jaime, who’s kind, compassionate, and always works with an “ardent passion.” Despite its focus on several heavy subjects, such as rape, disability, and adultery, Ferrendelli’s book is a heartwarming story that reveals the humanity in all of its characters.
A touching, well-written book that deftly handles several difficult issues.