10 years after her offence for smuggling a suitcase of drug money across borders, Piper Kerman starts her 15 month sentence at a minimum security women’s prison. She was not the sort of woman anyone expected to be there. This is her memoir.
So first off I should point out I haven’t watched the TV show based on this book, so I can’t make comparisons. I have heard it is quite different though. Certainly it’s been made more dramatic than this non-fiction tale which shines the light on the kind and generous nature of Piper’s fellow inmates. It’s not what I was expecting. She was undoubtedly a very lucky woman, to have an amazing support system on the outside but also her circumstances inside the prison weren’t as bleak as you’d imagine.
Piper’s main focus is to show the injustice of the statutory minimum sentences for drug offences in the US. Many of the women are inside for minor things and their sentences are certainly not about rehabilitation. Instead the prison makes it even harder for them to sort their lives out afterwards. In showing the positive sides of the women she befriended, it’s easier to make her argument. She felt it would be just as effective for her to have done the time in community service, working with the kind of people she hurt through her actions.
The strength of the book for me was the anecdotal nature of the way they all spent their days and the small trials and tribulations of life inside a prison where you have to look out for each other. It’s a book that’s probably better dipped into as reading for long stretches made me crave a proper story with dramatic ups and downs. Though prison is monotonous, so it can only reflect what she experienced.
I did like their creativity with the limited food they had and their microwaved delicacies. I started to crave some prison cheesecake after a while and some chilaquiles (basically tortillas cooked in salsa). You don’t expect food cravings from a book about prison!
I read this for book group and many of my fellow members felt Piper was a bit self-centred and they wanted more information on the other inmates. There are probably more in-depth books on the subject out there but this is an easy read, and is a different perspective than we usually get to see in the media. So I think it’s worth reading if you’re interested in the subject matter but not if you’re after some sort of expose or thrilling read.
Also reviewed @ The Aussie Zombie
Book Source: Purchased