the SMS Book Reviews book to movie reading challenge is on (click on link for details)...
my first completed read (very timely as i begin my ethics class)...
Title: Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the United States
Author: Helen Prejean, C.S.J.
Publisher: Vintage Books, a division of Random House
First sentence: "When Chava Colon from the Prison Coalition asks me one January day in 1982 to become a pen pal to a death-row inmate, I say, sure."
And thus begins Sister Prejean's journey out of her ordinary work as a Catholic nun in Louisiana, into the darkest parts of the prison system in the US. Initially I had some reservations about doing this particular book for the review, given my choice as a blogger to avoid political commentary here at piacere. However, the book was on my "to-read" list before the challenge was posted at Callista's site, and so I took the challenge in spite of the political volatility of the issue of the death penalty.
Sister Prejean tells of her journey from pen pal to spiritual advisor for two men who are eventually electrocuted. Her journey is not an easy one, as one would imagine. She relates her personal struggles of getting to know these men as humans. She portrays them in an honest light that is often unexpected and sometimes difficult. Throughout her story of the time spent with these men, she weaves encounters with various levels of government officials and knowledge she uncovered as the workings of the judicial and prison systems were revealed to her. She is brutally honest about what she considers her own faults (for example, not befriending the victims' families in the very beginning of her time as the inmates' spiritual advisor). And Sister Prejean is uncompromising in her pursuit to see every single human being as a child of God - victim or criminal. She is able to convey this and yet strongly advocates for the accountability of the inmates for the wrongs they have done. She does not excuse them, but she does not see death as the answer for crime.
Sister Prejean's story is written in a very matter-of-fact manner. She presents her personal and public struggle in such a way as to let the reader know that what she is doing is very difficult and it is done without sloppy sentiment. Overall, in style of writing, the book is easy to read in spite of the difficult subject matter. Sister Prejean's choice of words for this difficult topic is strangely comforting. Her inclusion of pertinent statistics, chapter-by-chapter detailed notes, and an extensive index are very helpful to the reader who demands an accountabilty of the author to back up her points. Given the age of this publication, it is helpful that Dead Man Walking Update maintains information updates.
My recommendations?...I would say that if the issues of violent crime and the death penalty hold interest, then the book is a very good choice for human insight. It does contain images that are not for the faint of heart. I have not yet seen the movie, but based on the book, I would like to do so.
& now it is on to the Freedom Writers' Diary...