The 63rd book I finished this year was certainly among the most intriguing. I never had much interest in the show of the same name, and only added the book to my library wish list after watching Pablo Schreiber as Lewis in SVU Season 15. Some 700 people later, my turn came up in the waiting list and I figured Why Not? I’d just finished the really good (review TK) The Pious Ones by Joseph Berger. I’m really glad I read it as it was an amazing, albeit dated, read.
Boston born, Smith College educated, Danbury incarcerated for her conspiracy role in drug charges with her former lover**. Piper Kerman is an interesting faulted heroine, which I think makes her more appealing. This is no good girl wrongly jailed – but rather someone forced to serve her time some ten years later due to delays within the legal system.
Given that she served her time in Danbury in a time before blogs were prevalent, I found the details in the stories amazing. I imagine that some came from letters she sent to Larry? * An interesting accompaniment to the book is thepipebomb.com, in which Larry provided details of Piper’s incarceration to friends and family. Most interesting there was the FAQ which, among other things, touched on the role of the “War on Drugs” to prison sentences.
Piper was also unlike many of her fellow inmates in that she was well-educated, could count on money and visitors from the outside and was not a mother. She managed to survive, and some would say even thrive there. The subsequent changes at Danbury would make that more challenging to women who were later sentenced there.
Important to Piper prior to her incarceration were the people she knew. That held true throughout her stay at Danbury FCI. The people she met – the Italian twins, Pop, Natalie, Amy, the Eminemettes (one of many small things that dated this memoir including the ’04 Red Sox win and reference to Myrtle Avenue in Brooklyn as Murder Avenue) were almost as interesting as her actual stay in the camp. The generosity among the women from Piper’s initial inability to buy items at the commissary due to the check not clearing to her later paying it forward was a key theme. They may do bad things that lead them to their incarceration but there are good people in prison.
The lack of follow up about those people – she missed her reunion with Natalie at the Myrtle Avenue Halfway House due to the time spent in and traveling to Chicago to testify. I want to know what happened to them. I want to know what happened to Piper after the release. Did she get the happily ever after with a job and a home? While ending the book with her release to Larry’s arms was poignant, I didn’t find it to be much of an ending.
A good read – I’m glad I read it, but I don’t think it’s going to make me want to watch the show.
*Further reading proved me wrong. She just had an amazing memory for detail. I was also happy to read that “Nearly everyone depicted in Orange is the New Black is now home from prison, and they gave the book and show their approval.”
** Good read with Catherine Cleary Wolters, Alex/Nora
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