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Visiting Life: Women Doing Time on the Outsideby Bridget Kinsella
Synopses & Reviews
When a friend who taught creative writing at a maximum-security prison asked Bridget Kinsella to read the work of one of his best students, she readily agreed. As a publishing professional, Kinsella was used to getting manuscripts from all sorts of sources. Who knows? she told herself. Maybe I can help this talented inmate get his work published. She had no idea that her correspondence with a convicted murderer serving life without parole would lead to a relationship that would change her life forever. Why in the world would anyone get involved with a prison inmate?
In this beautifully written, brutally honest memoir, Kinsella shares how she stumbled into a relationship with a lifer and became part of a sorority she never thought she'd join. Over the course of three years, she spends time with and ultimately befriends the wives, girlfriends, and mothers of some inmates at Pelican Bay. On this unexpected journey, she learns of the hurdles, heartbreaks, and hopes they have for their relationships as she experiences a connection with someone who helps heal her own wounds.
As the United States continues to incarcerate convicted criminals for increasingly long periods of time, our prison rolls swell to unprecedented levels — more than two million today — as does the number of women and children whose lives are thrown into limbo and who live for their next "visiting time." Through the lens of her own unlikely experience, Kinsella examines those impacted by crime and punishment with keen observation, candor, and compassion.
"When things go very wrong, fleeing the scene of the disaster is a time-honored response. But in this memoir cum social history, PW's West Coast editor Kinsella puts a new spin on an old story. When her husband of nine years announces that he is gay, she feels stripped of identity and purpose and heads west, seeking to start afresh. Launching a new career as a literary agent, she makes an unlikely friend: Rory Mehan, a convicted murderer doing life without parole at a maximum-security prison in northern California. But Rory is also a novelist, philosopher and doorway to a world Kinsella reveals in this book — one populated by the girlfriends, spouses and children of incarcerated men. The story is strongest when she turns the focus on these women and children. But there are also particularly poignant passages when Kinsella details her own struggle to come to terms with the fact that, at 40, she will most likely never have the children she had so desperately wanted. What becomes a romantic relationship with Rory raises core questions for her — a good Catholic girl and one-time honor student — about values and identity. Kinsella, though, seems less willing to go as deep as Rory or the women she profiles do in revealing those issues but still presents a powerful story. (June 12)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"The stories of the four needy women are thin...but the book does shed light on why certain vulnerable women are attracted to, fall in love with and even marry men behind bars." Kirkus Reviews
About the Author
Bridget Kinsella is an editor at Publishers Weekly. Her work has appeared in publications such as the Chicago Tribune and Writer's Digest, and on NPR and Salon.com. She lives in Northern California.
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