Sunday, December 29, 2013

Review and Comments: Inside These Walls

About the Book:
For Clara Mattingly, routine is the key to enduring the endless weeks, months and years of a life sentence in a women's prison. The convicted murderer never looks back at who she once was—a shy young art student whose life took a sudden tragic turn. And she allows herself no hope for a better future. Survival is a day-to-day game. But when a surprise visitor shows up one day, Clara finds that in an instant everything has changed. Now she must account for the life she has led—its beauty as well as its brutality—and face the truth behind the terrible secret she has kept to herself all these years.

Critically acclaimed author Rebecca Coleman brings you the haunting story of a woman's deepest passions, darkest regrets and her unforgettable and emotional journey toward redemption.

My Comments:
I know people who are or have been in prison.  It is an unfortunate part of doing criminal defense work.  These men (and in my case they are all men) and I had, during the pendency of their case, a co-worker type relationship.  I didn't consider any of them friends; they were clients, I saw them frequently at work and did my best to help my boss provide them with a defense. Still, as with co-workers, I came to know that they had families, hobbies, likes and dislikes.  

A reality of the system is that the obviously guilty do not often go to trial; they plead guilty in return for a small or large (depending on the circumstances) favor when it comes to sentencing.  What that means from my point of view is that defendants in the cases we take to trial are not generally obviously guilty of some heinous crime, nor are they obviously innocent.  Seeing these clients regularly and interacting with them as human beings has given me a different perspective on criminals that I had when I started in this business.  One thing I'll admit I've been curious about is what happens when we are done?  What happens after the sentence has been passed and the defendant has been taken into custody?  Inside These Walls is a novel that tells the story of one definitely guilty woman, what her life in prison was like, how she got there and how life changed.

Clara is a devout Catholic.  She goes to Mass weekly and confession often and the confessional plays a major part in her earthly redemption.  The chaplain tries to lead her to forgive herself and those involved in her crime; though I doubt he realized all that went into putting her in that position.  MILD SPOILER TO FOLLOW

Part of what got Clara into the situation that landed her in prison was the priest abuse scandal.  I think Rebecca Coleman did a good job of showing the collateral damage done by these priests (and those who covered for them) without bashing the Catholic church.  In fact, the Church as a whole comes out looking pretty good.  Confession clearly comes across as a medium of growth.  The chaplain is a good guy who genuinely cares for the women in his flock.  

The story was told in the first person by Clara.  Part of it is just her mental musing; other parts are letters to journalist who came along at the time when she needed to tell the story.  I liked the writing style and found it very effective.  

Honestly, I don't think the end of the book was very realistic, but it was happy, and given the publisher (Harlequin MIRA) I guess that was to be expected.  I'd like to thank the publisher for making a review copy available via NetGalley.  Grade:  B+


  1. Your job reflections are always interesting.

    1. I have the court sytem on my mind. Last month I had jury duty and was rejected by the defense as usual. This time I was a bit disappointed,as I had a particular empathy of sorts with the defendant.

    2. Picking a jury is an inexact science at best. I'm sure I'll never sit on one but I'd love to be a fly on the wall in a jury room. We had a mock trial once where we (with their knowledge) had a video camera in the jury room. It was interesting to watch but then everyone knew it wasn't real.


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