Visiting Life: Women Doing Time on the Outside Hardcover – Jun 12 2007
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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)
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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.
Top Customer Reviews
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.
Thank you Ms Kinsella for your sharing your story!
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.
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.
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.
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