Monday, August 8, 2016

With Love From the Inside

Title:  With Love From the Inside
Author:  Angela Pisel
Publication Information:  G.P. Putnam's Sons. 2016. 320 pages.
ISBN:  0399176365 / 978-0399176364

Book Source:  I received this book through the Penguin First to Read program free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "The police took "normal" away from me the moment they came rushing into William's hospital room."

Favorite Quote:  "I have not possessions to distribute, no finances to arrange, no funeral to plan, but I will have affairs to put in order. I need to stamp my place in this world even after I no longer belong to it:  I am here! And more important, I need for your to know you matter."

An infant dies. A mother is convicted of Munchhausen by proxy - the idea that one individual makes another sick for the sake of the attention it garners. In this case, it is the worst possible case. A mother is convicted of poisoning her infant son and sentenced to die for her crime. A family is destroyed. A little girl is left floundering and alone.

Fast forward almost two decades. The woman is still on death row, but now the execution date comes closer and closer. The little girl is now a married woman with a life she has created far away from her past. Grace Bradshaw and Sophie Logan. Mother and daughter. Strangers. Mother and daughter.

As the execution date looms, the story moves back and forth between Grace and Sophie. Grace's story is that of life on death row, seemingly an oxymoron, but life does indeed continue on death row. Her story is also the journal she writes for Sophie, whom she has lost and been unable to find despite her search. Sophie's story is that of a husband, a life of comfort, and the struggles of marriage. It is also the story of a little girl whose lost her mother and who then walked away out of self preservation. No one in Sophie's life now knows of the trauma of her childhood or of her mother.

What this book is not about is the ethical discussion surrounding capital punishment; if that is an issue for you, then this may not be the book for you. That conversation is raised in the book, but more as an observation of a situation rather than a discussion. The book can be interpreted as a commentary on the justice system and on the difference between winning a case and finding the truth. However, to me, the global meanings stand aside, and the book is the narrowly focused on the personal story of mother and daughter.

The plot is about Sophie's marital troubles and about Grace's fight for her life. It is the question of whether hope and joy exist in this seemingly hopeless situation. It is the question of guilt versus innocence. It is the possibility of clemency and forgiveness. It is not the plot though but the emotion of this debut novel that has me reading it straight through to the end in one sitting. Mind you, this book is not an easy read. It deals with death, betrayal, and about finding the strength to go on. The emotions grab hold and don't let go until the last page.

The emotions of Sophie's married life are perhaps the least compelling; some of the characters seem one dimensional and the story is one that's been told before. Sophie's struggles to deal with the trauma of her childhood and to face the truth of what may have happened elicit a wish to protect that little girl who watched her infant brother die, her mother get dragged away, and her father spend the rest of his life trying to exonerate his wife. Grace's story is by far the most compelling aspect of this novel. The rawness of life on death row and her love for her daughter comes through the pages, and it is that which keeps me reading from beginning to end in this book.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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