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The Final Case

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Member Reviews

I’ve thought about this book for quite some time. To my mind it essentially has three major themes. The first, and most touching , the relationship between a middle aged man and his octogenarian lawyer father, still imparting wisdom to his intellectual successful son. Their interaction, about life, the law, and clients is very incisive and touching.
The second,the saga of the orphaned Ethiopian child, the ordeal she suffered in Ethiopia, and the terrible things endured after her adoption and life here, culminating in her “homicide by abuse”. That this could happen here, in the USA, boggles the mind.
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I wish Mr. Guterson had more of a north star when he wrote this book.  It wandered about on rabbit trails and strayed from the narrative so frequently that, aside from the trial and the father/son relationship, I'd lose sight of the novel's direction and intent.

Royal is an 84 year old criminal attorney without a current case.  His car isn't working and his son is driving him places.  His sons was a novelist who has decided not to write anymore.  "My life clearly smacked of bourgeois retirement."  One day the phone rings in Royal's office and he is asked to take a case due to a shortage of public defenders.  He accepts and this leads to the heart of the story. Royal's office is in Seattle and the courthouse is in Skagit.  His son drives back and forth with Royal every day for the trial and they have time to deepen their relationship as well as work on aspects of the case together. 

The case is horrendous and emotionally fraught.  Abeba Temesgen is an Ethiopian child who was adopted by Delvin and Betsey Harvey. Both parents are fundamentalist Christians who thrive on conspiracy theories, racism,  child discipline and hatred of "the system".  The charge against them is the murder of Abeba due to child torture and abuse.  She ultimately died of hypothermia after being made to stay outside the home during freezing weather without appropriate garments.  She was not allowed back into the home until she apologized to Betsey for being disrespectful.  Abeba was a strong and wonderfully willful child who wasn't about to give in despite her beatings and punishments.  By the time Betsey went outside to check on Abeba, she had died.

I found the father/son relationship touching though not very developed.  It is obvious that the son respects his father greatly and admires his life's work and the way he lived but I don't feel I really got to know either of them.  Both are stressed, trying to cope with a child abuse trial that is difficult to get your head around.  Royal is prepared to lose the case, believing that the parents are evil and no redemption is possible.  Despite this belief, he is defending the parents as well as he can.  "To tell you the truth, a lot of things in my work are sad.  It's sort of a sad world to have to move around it."

It is obvious that Mr. Guterson is questioning the system that allows parents like the Harveys to adopt an Ethiopian child.  The most riveting parts of the book were the testimonies of the Harvey children and the interview with Betsy's mother.  The rage and vituperativeness that spilled from Betsey's mother's mouth made my jaw drop despite my realizing that many people believe as she does.

I wish I could recommend this book more heartily but it just didn't grab me.  I don't know if a different editor could have made a difference.  Ultimately, I don't think so.  I believe the problem is that the author wasn't sure where he wanted to go with all this and so ended up in a circular conundrum without true direction.
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An elderly lawyer takes on a final case where he defends a woman accused of murdering her adopted Ethiopian daughter which she had been abusing in the name of religion. Since the lawyer is unable to drive, his son acts as his chauffeur and documents the details of the case and his father's story.

The case itself was horrifying and painful to read about but riveting as well. Then the book veers off for a while into a bunch of other stuff about the lawyer which kind of lost my interest and made me wonder why the author was going into a bunch of random stuff. But the book eventually returns to the case so at least we find out what happened. It felt like this book wasn't sure what story it was telling.
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David Guterson, The Final Case, Alfred A Knopf 2022.

Thank you NetGalley for this uncorrected proof for review. 

How can my words, reviewing The final Case, aspire in any way to catch all the wonderful the ideas, phrases, characterisations and plot of this amazing novel? They cannot, but here is my attempt to encourage you to read and reread David Guterson’s latest work. Even ‘work’ is too harsh word for this story that flows so beautifully, that reflects so warmly on the central character’s relationship with his father, Royal, his mother, sister and wife; and that so succinctly tells us how stringently the law should be interpreted. The bleak story of Abeba, the Ethiopian girl named Abigail by the American couple who adopted her, is woven into this landscape,  with razor-sharp commentary raised by the legal case in which not only the behaviour of individuals but the insidious impact and extent of ideologies are laid bare. 

The Author’s note states that, although this is a work of fiction, he attended a trial in which the parents of a girl adopted from Ethiopia were tried in connection with her death by hypothermia. 

The Final Case begins in the main character’s room in which he writes. This space is filled with his father’s boxed legal files, pile upon pile, recessing his windows, providing only tunnels to the light. He begins reading a file which introduces his father’s first case, his legal mind and commitment to ensuring that a defence should be raised for a person standing trial, and that, regardless of the work he undertook, he was unpaid. 
As the narrative moves into Royal’s last trial, his son’s story of his difficulties in writing another novel becomes part of the story. His freedom from his own work gives him the time to become engrossed in his father’s last case: defending the mother of the Ethiopian girl adopted into a religious family with several biological children. The case, for Royal, ends with his death. 

Although it takes time to become as engrossed in the continuing story as happened with the earlier revelations, it then becomes as enticing. The trial is left in abeyance, the reader having been told that it must begin anew after Royal’s death. There is now time to move away from the trial and Royal, and become immersed in the other narratives. 

These are several. In the earlier part of the novel relationships are an important feature, and they remain so throughout. The moving glimpses into life in Ethiopia where a loving uncle has been forced to put his niece into an orphanage from where he is pleased to learn she will go to an American family contrast with the reality.  The main character’s feelings about his own family, with the lovely pictures of an ageing father with his whimsical behaviour charted alongside his acute legal mind, and then his death are followed with stronger portraits of tea drinking moments in his sister’s café, and his marriage. 

Importantly, and linking so sharply with current American politics is the portrayal of the adoptive family, their values and their right to a legal defence. The ramifications of adoption, the American Constitution and the type of protection it provides, together with the contrast of what might be considered an unsatisfactory life with a truly horrendous life are raised. The result of the trial and the Judge’s perceptive remarks, which resonate all too vividly with some of the commentary alive in current political debate, provides a satisfying end to the legal story. 

As this is an uncorrected proof no quotes can be included in this review. However, Royal’s legal observations, and later the Judge’s commentary on the outcome of the case, are precise and thoughtful. They make an outstanding contribution to current debate over the legal ramifications of political events in America.
This is a novel that resonates with feeling and delightful vignettes of a family who are comfortable with each other and their differences. In contrast, a family which cannot allow lives to flourish beyond their consent, presents a horrific story that has wider implications than the one at the centre of Royal’s last case.   This is a novel to be read and pondered. It is a real triumph.
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I read the first 7% and I am certain this will go over well with our library patrons, an easy 4 stars for the right readers if it continues as it has. 

Thank you to NetGalley and Knopf for the ARC.
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I loved the idea of an 80 year old attorney who has his son chauffeur him around while he is garnering information on a case. While the book was well written, I did not find it to be an easy read. This was not as good as Snow Falling on Cedars although it did hold my interest to the end. I rated it 3 stars because of the pace. Thank you to NetGalley, the publisher, and the author for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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I struggled through the first third of book debating whether to continue.  The narrative is long, the sentences are long. And often I wondered when the story would get started.  The second part " the trial" had me glue to my seat. As horrible as the treatment of Abeba was, I couldn't look away.  Then we get to the final part of the book and I'm still optimistic, with descriptions of the narrator's father and the lives he touched.  Unfortunately for me the rest of the book was as it started, meandering towards a destination I didn't see.  This just wasn't for me.
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I enjoyed parts of this book, but not the majority of it.
The trial and story of the girl who was killed were difficult to read because it was so sad and infuriating. That's good writing. That's why I chose this book. Difficult as it was to read about that poor kid and her horrible adoptive parents, it was an engrossing story. Had the book been primarily about this, it would have been at least a 4 star book. 
Unfortunately, the 80-something lawyer had a story. His author son (the narrator) also had a story. Neither of these were engaging. The last 25% of the book seemed to be completely disconnected from the focus of the book (the trial). The son was going through his father's files, they were at another relative's teahouse, and whatever else. It left me saying "what is this and why is it here?" I skimmed it. Somewhere buried in this mess was the judge's verdict. That was good. 
This book would benefit from being completely reworked. If the author wrote a book about the adopted girl, her situation, the trial, the verdict, and whatever other supporting story of direct relevance; this would be a great read. As written, it is a missed opportunity.
Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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Guterson tells the story of an elderly lawyer, who goes to work every day, but longs for one final case to fill his rather empty days. Then he gets a phone call that a woman needs a lawyer to defend her on a homicide by abuse charge. His son, a journalist/writer, is tasked with driving him. He is haunted by what he hears. I will be thinking about this book for a very long time!
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Sadly, I found David Guterson’s The Final Case too harsh and gritty for my taste. Guterson’s descriptions of the small towns he visited were cleverly presented as tossed off thoughts of the main character. The aging lawyer with his quirks and short-comings saved the narrative with his humanity. For my taste, Guterson buried his story in too much stupidity and unkindness. He made trying to read the story not worth the effort.
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I'd hand courtroom drama to Grisham fans with the caveat that the beginning is quite a bit slower - more focused on character development than plot - but that it's worth the wait!
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This is a story about the cruel death of a young girl and the trial of her adoptive parents who have mistreated her horribly. One of the attorneys is the narrator’s father who is in his 80s and this is his final case. It is about their lives and relationship as well.
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I used to reread Snow Falling on Cedars over and over and was so excited to be able to read this Arc. Royal, an older lawyer takes on a harrowing case of parents accused of murdering their adoptive daughter from Ethiopia. During this tense,well-writtwn novel, Royal makes considerable advances in his relationship with his son.  I loved it and am glad the author has written another novel.
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Having loved Snow Falling on Cedars many years ago, I was so looking forward to this read.  To me it actually read like three different stories, two of which did seem to connect.  The thoughts were disjointed frequently and I did struggle to read the last third of the book.  Abeba’s story was heartbreakingly told and that third of the novel was easily read and understood.  Another third focuses on the lives of Abeba’s adoptive mother’s lawyer and his adult son which was less engaging.  The last third of the novel totally rambled on, seemingly based on tea, which never seemed to connect to the story.  I am unsure why this section was included as to me it quite detracted from the rest of the story.
“My lamp had gone out, and my tea had gone cold.  I felt creaky and mired, suddenly, sitting there.”  This is exactly how I felt reading the last section.  I do think the rest of the book had purpose where I found no purpose here. The redeeming few paragraphs were Abeba’s letter about the hyena people…absolutely chilling to read.
Thank you to David Guterson, Knopf, and NetGalley for affording me the opportunity to read an arc of this just published book.  3 stars based on the trial portion of the book.
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Based on the description, I expected a courtroom drama instead I got a very slow, meandering family drama. Royal is a great character but he is buried beneath long rambling sentences of distracting narrative that doesn't move the story along.  This book never grabbed or held my interest. Not recommended
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I know I read 'Snow" back when it was published but I don't remember if it was as meandering as this book is.  The descriptions are beautiful - but endless.  It was hard to keep track of what was happening when the sentences seemed to be pages long.  I have to admit, I'm disappointed I didn't like this book more.
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Ethiopian orphan, Abeda, arrived in America, dreaming of a better life,  is placed in a foster home of  religious fundamentalists, who believe in corporal punishment to train children. Abeda resists their beliefs, horrendous punishments, and comes to a violent end. Foster parents, Delvin and Betsy Harvey, are arrested for their actions. 
Our narrator,  ex-fiction writer, utilizes his spare time from writing driving his father, Royal, 80 year old lawyer, to court. The Final Case will be a life changer!
There is no mystery; the foster parents caused Abeda’s death. There are no clear cut answers; you have to decide for yourself what should be the trial’s outcome. The judge has the case of her life. Father and son strengthen their bond during the course of this trial,  reminiscing about their family, their struggles, and accomplishments. 
This is a story that makes you realize the world is good, but also full of so much evil. Despite  these challenges, we can strive to live our lives and do our best to care for others.
This is an unforgettable story! 

Thank you to NetGalley, David Guterson, and Knopf Publishing Group for allowing me to read the ARC of The Final Case in return for an honest review.
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This might have been a good story, but for the writing style. Too many sentences went on for ages so I picked one at random. 99 words in one sentence and that wasn't even the longest one I found!
Storyline of lawyers representing people inspite of appearing  obviously guilty never got off the ground in the first 17% of the book which is too bad.
Thank you NetGalley for an advance reader copy in exchange for an honest opinion.
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It has been a long time since David Guterson's last novel and thanks to Netgalley and Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group for the opportunity to read The Final Case in exchange for an honest review.
The Final Case is a compelling courtroom drama (with a really horrific case) and a father/son relationship story. Royal is 84 and still a practicing attorney. He takes on a truly heartbreaking case as a public defender to represent Betsy Harvey on charges of homicide by abuse. Her daughter, Abigail/Abeba, came to the US from Ethiopia, where she had already experienced tremendous loss and hardship. America was not a land of freedom for her.
But, the book is also about family relationships, aging, as well as the clashes about race, religion and justice that we see today. The book is narrated by Royal's son, a published novelist who's decided to not write any more novels, so has plenty of time to drive his father to his trial, hang out at his sister's teahouse, coach authors and would-be authors, and to deal with the detritus of aging (both himself and his parents).
I was immersed in the sections about Abigail/Abeba, her adoptive family and the trial. Outside of this, the book is very detailed and goes down a wide variety of rabbit holes, some more interesting and seemingly relevant than others. It was wonderful to have an opportunity to once again experience Mr. Guterson's beautiful writing.
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DNF @ 15%. I was hoping the local connection to this story would give me the will to continue on, but the often overwhelming word salad was incredibly boring. Not sure if it was my state of mind or the writing style. I may pick it up again at a later date, but for now - back on the Kindle shelf.
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