When my friend picked Orange Is The New Black as July’s Book Club choice, we all said we’d try and separate the book from the hugely popular TV series which was based on Piper Kerman’s true story. There were a few of the group who had never seen the TV programme so we didn’t want to exclude them with talks of the show, just as much as we didn’t want the show to affect our reading of the book.
With a career, a boyfriend, and a loving family, Piper Kerman barely resembles the reckless young woman who delivered a suitcase of drug money ten years before.
But that past has caught up with her.
Convicted and sentenced to fifteen months at the infamous federal correctional facility in Danbury, Connecticut, the well-heeled Smith College alumna is now inmate #11187–424 — one of the millions of people who disappear “down the rabbit hole” of the American penal system.
From her first strip search to her final release, Kerman learns to navigate this strange world with its strictly enforced codes of behavior and arbitrary rules. She meets women from all walks of life, who surprise her with small tokens of generosity, hard words of wisdom, and simple acts of acceptance.
Heartbreaking, hilarious, and at times enraging, Kerman’s story offers a rare look into the lives of women in prison—why it is we lock so many away and what happens to them when they’re there.
At first, I kept imagining the characters as they appeared on TV, wondering whether the people in the books were TV characters but with a different name. But, as I continued to read, I forgot about the TV series and became immersed in the book itself, as did others in the group.
We all said we really enjoyed reading Piper’s story. She seemed like a genuinely nice person and the entire story made us all question whether America’s punishments really fit the crime? She had to live for years under the threat of prison before she actually started her prison time, and that in itself must have been horrible. We all felt like that would almost be worse than being in jail- the not knowing.
A few members of our book group commented that they didn’t think they would ever be able to deal with a prison sentence the way Piper did. The characters are all interesting to read about, although some only pop up for a paragraph or two and then we don’t see any more of them. I suppose that’s how it is in prison though – sometimes you only see someone from afar and don’t really interact with them, whilst other people you grow to know so well. I did sometimes feel that Piper was a little too aware of how she didn’t ‘fit in’ there because of her race and how she’d been brought up, but she made the best of it and tried to get involved with prison life where possible without causing trouble. The TV series (I know we’re not supposed to be comparing, but it’s bound to happen) is so entertaining but reading this made me realise how much the series was dramatised! There were a lot of things I expected to happen, from watching the show, that didn’t, and I’m glad because this is, after all, real life, and it felt like that (even though she was in a position that a lot of us will never be in).
Overall I’d say this is well worth a read, especially if you’re interested in the prison system as I am! I love anything to do with prisons, which sounds strange but I just find them really intriguing.
A terrifying psychological thriller about obsession and power, perfect for fans of Gone Girl and Before I Go to Sleep.
Clarissa is becoming more and more frightened of her colleague, Rafe. He won’t leave her alone, and he refuses to take no for an answer. He is always there.
Being selected for jury service is a relief. The courtroom is a safe haven, a place where Rafe can’t be. But as a violent tale of kidnap and abuse unfolds, Clarissa begins to see parallels between her own situation and that of the young woman on the witness stand.
Realizing that she bears the burden of proof, Clarissa unravels the twisted, macabre fairytale that Rafe has spun around them – and discovers that the ending he envisions is more terrifying than she could have imagine.
This was my choice so I’m really looking forward to seeing what everyone thinks!
I bought The Book Of You a while ago in hardback and have had it on my bookshelf for a while, so I’m glad I’m finally going to get round to reading it at last!
If you read it too let me know how you found it! 🙂