“While Justice Sleeps,” Stacey Abrams (Doubleday)
“While Justice Sleeps” is a deftly written page-turner — understated action, vivid characters and a tense, plausible plot.
The author, a former Georgia House of Representatives member and current political miracle worker Stacey Abrams has created a political thriller: Supreme Court justice Howard Wynn, suffering from a rare illness, falls into a coma, leaving his young law clerk, Avery Keene, as his legal guardian with power of attorney.
Keene soon finds herself the key figure in the planned merger of an American biotech company and an Indian genetics company. At stake, a weaponized genetic editing capability and the tenure of a corrupt American president. Wynn is the swing vote on the merger and his fate now is controlled by Keene.
Keene is a compelling heroine, clearly bright, principled and devoted. She’s also multi-ethnic, personifying, as Abrams observed in an interview, America’s journey toward becoming a multi-ethnic nation.
The characters in the book also allow Abrams subtle observations on America.
Keene describes America to her boss, Justice Wynn, as “contradictory and precocious” and Americans as “greedy, brilliant, ambitious and compassionate.”
“While Justice Sleeps” also shows the how a stiffly polarized political scene endangers democracy; the story arc also raises questions about the wisdom of lifetime Supreme Court appointments, the use and abuse of genetic editing and difficulty of bringing a criminal president to justice.
How did a tax attorney, founder of several voting rights, training and social issues organizations and now a national political figure become a storyteller and find the time to write a complicated, technically demanding 369-page novel?
Abrams started writing in college, eventually crafting a series of romance novels and transitioning to topical books — “Our Time is Now” and “Lead from the Outside.”
Abrams says she sleeps just five hours a day and can write 3,000 words a day, seven times the length of this review.
Abrams says she will run for office again and given her considerable role in getting two Democratic senators elected in Georgia, she will be a formidable candidate.
And Avery Keene?
The book ends with Keene, having thwarted the forces of darkness, nonetheless jobless but young, idealistic and courageous.
We will see Avery again, the author says. No doubt we will be seeing more of Abrams, too.