I’ve always been a fan of “legal thrillers”, but Corban Addison’s Wastelands is a nonfictional legal thriller.

Wastelands: The True Story of Farm Country on TrialWastelands: The True Story of Farm Country on Trial by Corban Addison
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In many ways, Corban Addison’s Wasteland brings to mind The Rainmaker, one of my favorite early Grisham novels.

I spent much of my youth residing in the piedmont of North Carolina, and I’ve always loved the state. Over the last four years, I’ve had a close friend who lives in the coastal area and commutes every week to work in Wilmington from the Kinston area. We had frequent phone conversations while she was in route, and I learned the counties and layout of the land like the back of my hand. As these cases are all fairly recent, the appeal being only three years ago, I’m surprised that my friend (who lives on her own farm) never even mentioned anything about it. Or the fact that the area is second only to Iowa in the nation in hog production.

About the same time period all of these trials were occurring in North Carolina, my own region in east central Indiana was going through similar trials. Pig farmers to the east of our White River were polluting the river with hog waste. The news of these Indiana trials soon fell from headlines, so either a satifactory settlement was reached, or the problem was resolved by other means.

I definitely recall reading about the Smithfield corporation, and I seem to remember something about them involved in a major lawsuit not too long ago.

The Smithfield rulings most likely set a precedence in the farming industry (namely hogs) throughout the nation. But like the cases here in Indiana, as well as in Iowa, they slipped into obscurity.

The topic is touchy in that it involves providing food for the masses, yet the greed factor once again seems to have been central to the problem.

When the juries decided the judgements and penalties to hand the corporation, the enormous amounts reminded me of the ending of The Rainmaker, even though, the respondent probably never paid anything close to what the juries suggested due to the “ceiling” put in place by the court system.

I thought it ironic at the close of the book that the lead appellate judge’s opinion vehemently supported the hog case verdict not only because of the harm done to the “good neighbors”, but mainly due to the suffering of the hogs themselves.

All in all, I thought Wastelands was an informative read. Definitely worth the endeavor. I strongly recommend it to anyone!

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