This book, and its partner "Couldn't Keep It To Myself" by the same author, is at times tough and uplifting. These are essays that women have worked on in a writing class inside the prison. They are their personal stories, which usually reveal so much about their circumstances and decisions that led them to incarceration.
Some of it is rough to read, such as troubled family lives and things happening to them that we don't like to think about. You get a chance to see the real consequences of poor treatment and bad circumstances. It's must-see information so we can all be more empathetic and alert when it comes to how we treat loved ones, watch over our neighborhood, and care for the society at large.
But beyond the painful histories, these essays reveal how these women are searching inside themselves to identify and correct troublesome thoughts and habits, and rehabilitating themselves in the process. In this respect it is very inspiring and uplifting. Most of us go through our days without thinking much about the deep things. In these essays we can follow the path of discovery with these women, some further along than others, and the progress they have made even in spite of their handicapped backgrounds and current incarceration. It can't help but motivate the reader to higher aspirations with his own circumstances.
I could recommend these two books to anyone who is interested in: child care, teaching, psychology, dealing with challenges, religion, or caring about our fellow man.
As an aside, I bought these books because I responded to an ad in our local paper looking for "weekend puppy-raisers". This prison has a program of training inmates to raise puppys for future life as an assistance dog to a handicapped person. The inmates work hard for the privilege, and dedicate themselves wholly to making the ideal dog for its future needy owner. On weekends, the dogs go home with a family to get socialized to life outside the prison walls. I signed up as a weekend family, solely because I missed having a dog, and with my work schedule, a full-time dog was impossible. What I didn't expect, was that the relationship with the inmate raising the pup would mean at least as much to me as the pup. The transformation that the woman is undergoing, as she works on herself and learns more about how her actions impact others and her own future, is so inspiring. I was surprised to find "real people" in prison, and so I got these two books to learn more about who they are and what led them to that point. We all have less-than-ideal life histories and personal choices, it's just a matter of degree, and I've found this helps me open my eyes to a world I avoided even thinking about - troubled families and people living in rough circumstances or making bad choices. It's good take off the blinders.
I'll post the same review on the companion book.