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Book cover of A Civil Action

A Civil Action

by Jonathan Harr, Marty Asher (Editor), Marty Asher

Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Pages: 512
Paperback
ISBN: 9780679772675






Available to Buy

Overview of A Civil Action

The lawyer had not wanted the case at first -- it was too big, too complicated, too risky. It concerned a cluster of childhood leukemia victims in a small town north of Boston where the city wells had been poisoned by industrial chemicals. Two of the nation's largest corporations, each with a plant near the wells, stood accused. Against his better judgment, the lawyer found himself drawn into the case. In this book, you'll meet the Harvard Law professor who told the lawyer that this case was worth a billion dollars, that it was the sort of lawsuit that would ring the alarm in corporate boardrooms across America. And you'll meet his adversaries, foremost among them a crafty old trial lawyer, chairman of the litigation department at one of the biggest and most feared law firms in Boston. The case turned into an epic struggle that took nine years of the lawyer's life. At the heart of the legal system, he was confronted by powerful and well-connected interests who would do anything to win. In the end, the struggle nearly cost the lawyer his sanity. He sacrificed everything -- home, friends, and reputation -- not for money, but for what he believed to be the truth.

Synopsis of A Civil Action

"The legal thriller of the decade." —Cleveland Plain Dealer

Now a Major Motion Picture!

In this true story of an epic courtroom showdown, two of the nation's largest corporations stand accused of causing the deaths of children. Representing the bereaved parents, the unlikeliest of heroes emerges: a young, flamboyant Porsche-driving lawyer who hopes to win millions of dollars and ends up nearly losing everything, including his sanity. A searing, compelling tale of a legal system gone awry—one in which greed and power fight an unending struggle against justice—A Civil Action is also the story of how one determined man can ultimately make a difference. With an unstoppable narrative power, it is an unforgettable reading experience.

Time Magazine - Randall Short

This book "chronicles a lawsuit brought in 1986 by eight families in Woburn, Massachusetts, against Beatrice Foods and W.R. Grace. The plaintiffs charged that toxic waste on properties owned by the giant corporations had infiltrated town drinking water and caused an outbreak of leukemia."

About the Author, Jonathan Harr

Jonathan Harr lives and works in Northampton, Massachusetts, where he has taught nonfiction writing at Smith College. He is a former staff writer at New England Monthly and has written for The New Yorker and The New York Times Magazine.

Harr spent nine years researching and writing A Civil Action, which was published in 1995, subsequently nominated for a National Book Award, and awarded the National Book Critics Circle Award.

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Editorials

From Barnes & Noble

The Barnes & Noble Review
December 1998

The New York Times Book Review declared Jonathan Harr's revealing true story, A Civil Action, "a page-turner. So rich and vivid that it becomes a good deal more than a simple, interesting case study." The critically acclaimed bestseller tells the true story of an obsessed young lawyer who gives up just about everything to fight two prestigious law firms and two of the nation's largest corporations on behalf of the families and citizens of Woburn, Massachusetts, whose loved ones died because they drank the water.

Harr has crafted a tale that demonstrates how truth can be more interesting than fiction. Describing a lawsuit that lasted nine years, A Civil Action reveals that even with the best lawyers and evidence on the victims' side, justice can be elusive, especially when it involves malfeasance by powerful corporations. Read how the unlikeliest of heroes emerges when a young, hotshot, Porsche-driving lawyer takes the case, initially with hopes of winning millions, and ends up nearly losing everything, including his sanity, as he is led to confront connected and powerful interests who will do anything to win.

A Civil Action is considered by many to be the best book ever written on the legal system.

Randall Short

This book "chronicles a lawsuit brought in 1986 by eight families in Woburn, Massachusetts, against Beatrice Foods and W.R. Grace. The plaintiffs charged that toxic waste on properties owned by the giant corporations had infiltrated town drinking water and caused an outbreak of leukemia."
— Time Magazine

Library Journal

In the 1970s, it became painfully apparent that the town of Woburn, MA, was the site of a leukemia cluster. No one, however, initially linked the illness to the water supply or to the chemicals dumped there by the town's two largest corporations. As determined parents began to delve into the cause of their childrens' deaths, they found legal help in the form of the self-assured, no-holds-barred Jan Schlichtmann. What began as a pesky assignment for Schlichtmann becomes a compelling and intricate web of justice, money, big business, and emotion underscored by the notion that this could happen anywhere. Harr's skillful empathy in bringing the listener along on this roller coaster of emotion is enhanced by Alan Sklar's smooth handling of the many legal and medical terms. This best seller will be popular everywhere, even in this lengthy unabridged format. [The recent feature film starring John Travolta received critical acclaim.--Ed.]--Susan McCaffrey, Haslett H.S., MI Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

Gilbert Taylor

Eyeing readers who flock to fictionalized courtroom drama, Harr bets that dramatized nonfiction can compete for their attention. The case he selected, the standard cancer-caused-by-chemicals charge, is less about the validity of the suit than about the snarling courtroom combat between lawyers. While he spoke with both sides, he spoke most with the plaintiffs' maniacally energetic lawyer, Jan Schlichtmann, who took on the case of families who blamed their leukemia tragedies on city water polluted by two deep pockets, W. R. Grace and the Beatrice Corp., whose experienced trial attorneys usually appear in the narrative whenever Schlichtmann meets them while handling the business of the trial. Schlichtmann is definitely, and defiantly, a high-wire act, as he rejects offer after offer even as his creditors crowd closer to his accountant. Drawn as vividly as a character in a mystery novel, Harr's hero walks the precipice of bankruptcy, pushed toward the edge and pulled back by a carnival of forces, not the least his own ambition and brashness. Entertaining insight to litigation that any law-minded reader will follow from first filing to last appeal.

Randall Short

This book "chronicles a lawsuit brought in 1986 by eight families in Woburn, Massachusetts, against Beatrice Foods and W.R. Grace. The plaintiffs charged that toxic waste on properties owned by the giant corporations had infiltrated town drinking water and caused an outbreak of leukemia."
-- Time Magazine

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