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Visiting Life: Women Doing Time on the Outside [Hardcover]

Bridget Kinsella
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

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)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Book Description

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.

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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring Read! Aug. 13 2009
Format:Hardcover
After hearing the author's interview about the book on CBC radio, I rushed out to get my own copy. Visiting Life is more than just sharing women's experiences with visiting loved ones on the inside, it's also about her own life - her emotions, fears, and loves. She truly brings a personal touch and draws the reader right into her life. Her honesty and openness about what she has gone through hit home with me a on a few topics, and I am thankful that someone was able to put down in words thoughts that I'd had but was never really able to speak up about.
Thank you Ms Kinsella for your sharing your story!
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2.0 out of 5 stars Visiting life Oct. 21 2007
Format:Hardcover
I thought Barbara Ehrenreich was rather arrogant in her written tone in "Nickel & Dimed", but Kinsella seems to have managed to outdo her in "Visiting Life: Women Doing Time on the Outside".
Kinsella writes (somehow managing to strike that delicate balance between arrogance and paternalistic condescension) minimally of her time spent visiting an inmate, in more detail regarding her feelings and thoughts towards the other women there to visit their own men in prison, and finally (and this is by far the most thorough part of the book) on her own personal musings.
I would only recommend this book to people I don't like very much.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.9 out of 5 stars  47 reviews
20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written memoir: bracingly honest & couragous Sept. 25 2007
By Pageturner in NYC - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I think some of the negative reviews posted here stem from the fact that this memoir is so achingly honest that it makes some people uncomfortable when they imagine themselves in Kinsella's position and they lash out at her to push away the pain she's dealing with in this beautifully written and uncompromising memoir.

I'm not a soft touch with books (movies can often make me cry, but books rarely do), but i was teary-eyed reading Kinsella's memoir. The penultimate chapter, MOTHER'S DAY, is particularly moving and sensitively observed as that deals with the Get on the Bus program that brings children into prisons on Mother's Day weekend to visit their incarcerated mothers. This is a real heart-breaker with sobering facts sprinkled throughout ("According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice, as of 2000, 1.5 million children in the United States have an incarcerated parent. That same study show that women are being imprisoned at a much more rapid rate than men; in the 1990s female prisoners rose by 106 percent and male prisoners by 58 percent.").

I'm also a slow reader but this book moved around with me from the moment I picked it up: it was with me on the subway, in the bathroom and by my computer at home. As it got closer to the end, I was reading it almost like a novel, wondering just how was this story going to end. Not once did i feel myself losing interest or wishing that Kinsella had done anything different (meaning I never found myself thinking, "Just get on with it" or "go back to..."). VISITING LIFE was a riveting read; very affecting and one that you'll want to discuss with friends.

This is an inspirational title that upturns many pre-conceptions from readers (especially the notion of how any woman could enter into a--even platonic--relationship with a man in prison). Kinsella's portraits of many of the other women visiting men in the same prison are haunting, sympathetic and initially as suspicious as most readers would be.

This is a story about Kinsella's process for healing old wounds that haunted her for years and hindered her ability to trust and to make herself vulnerable by making herself available for a new relationship. Impatient readers who anonymously tell her to "just get on with it" seem to miss the whole point of the book. She wasn't able to get on with her life and it wasn't until she found the perfect combination of a "safe" man (behind bars) who was also open to doing what he could to help her heal, that she was able to come out the other side.

This is an amazing achievement.
20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fresh take on crime and punishment... June 12 2007
By Reader - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Kinsella sheds light on a world many people have probably never considered: women who love men in prison. And she does it in such a way that is never patronizing or scandalous. I love how she juxtaposes the stories of the other women with the very honest account of how she herself fell in love with a convicted murder who was serving a life sentence without parole. This is a beautiful book; journalistic but personal, sad but hopeful.
19 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Opened up a whole new world for me! July 11 2007
By Peter J. Sander - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I wasn't sure just what to expect when I started reading this book, but I'd been intrigued by the press mentions. Once I got started on a sunny Sunday afternoon I read the entire thing straight through! This author opens up a world I'm not likely ever to see from my little suburban perch, and I was really moved by the stories of the other women that she met. And as for her story, I can totally understand her feelings. It is easy to feel like a complete stranger in our society if you don't fit into the married-with-kids mold that is all around us. Bless her for finding a way to work through her own feelings, and for being brave enough to share them.

Jennifer Sander
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but flawed Oct. 14 2007
By Shawna - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I finished this book with a lot of unanswered questions about Rory. Did Bridget ever help him get anything published? Was he really as good a writer as she claimed he was? What were the specific facts (independent of Rory or Bridget's "spin") of his case? In large part he seemed to be a blank screen where Bridget could project what she longed for in a man. I finished some chapters, thinking, "enough about you already." I couldn't relate to her prolonged agony over her divorce and her angst over being childless at 40.

She is hardly typical of most women who visit prisoners, because most women can't tack on an extra flight to accomodate a prison visit during a work-related business trip. Most women also don't have the luxury of careers that allow them the freedom to move around the country as the wanderlust strikes them and still keep the same job.

Still, it was an interesting book. I wish she could have gotten more women to talk to her and tell their stories, it would have made a better book.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not quite reality April 17 2012
By dannie - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I liked this book and even found myself emotionally involved at a few points. But one thing is missing in this book. Her dedication to Rory. Although she tries to show herself as a man in love with a lifer, she never really gives into Rory and becomes his wife. She always keeps him at arms length.
So, I reserve the right to say that she can't really tell us what it is like to have a husband or boyfriend on the inside.
She doesn't have the level of commitment that I and other women who love these men have.
With a good job, she doesn't juggle work, school, children, and visits.
She doesn't know what its like to go through the things that women really do.
She include some other women in the book, but somehow they are all less than she is. In many cases she makes them seem naive or less than desirable to anyone but an inmate.
It reminds me of another book, Nickled and Dimed, where the author pretended to be poor for awhile and then went back to her normal life. This is my normal life. I don't have another one waiting for me somewhere.
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