Many years ago I went to the theater to see a movie called "Dead Man Walking." One of the few movies I have seen that I had not read the book first, I am however, a big Susan Sarandon fan and tried to see all movies in which she took part. Anyway this was an emotionally powerful movie and I knew the other in the theater felt the same way because at the end of the movie there was dead silence, for quite a few seconds and than everyone rose to their feet and clapped. After reading this book I had the same reaction, I put the book down, stopped and thought about it and am still in fact thinking and processing. Actually gave a little chuckle when the famous nun, though nameless, has a brief appearance in this book.
This is a hard book to read, a book about death row inmates, just the subject matter tells the reader this is not a happy little story. Nice people usually do not end up on death row. What made that movie and this book so powerful is not that excuses are made for these prisoners, what they did was horrible, but it does allow the reader to see them as people. The main characters in this book are not names, they are the lady, the fallen priest and our narrator who stays unnamed until the end of the book.
This is a story of lost men, of all sorts of emotional and in some cases physical pain, and how they did or did not handle this pain. Our narrator uses books at first, "I know that when I read books about love, they are telling the truth. The truth of it winds around my heart and tightens in pain. I try and see it through my eyes, raised to my stone ceiling, and wonder, What is it like to feel love? What is it like to be known?" Later in the story he will use magical thinking, horses snorting and galloping throughout the prison, little men with hammers and other visuals he will use to keep his sanity.
The prose is amazing and I believe that though this author has written non fiction this is his first novel. This book will evoke powerful emotions in the reader, whether they hate the book or admire, (can't really use like here, it just doesn't seem appropriate) what this author has managed to put down on a page, they will not read this and feel nothing. This is another book that I believe will haunt me.
ARC from publisher.