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52 Books in 52 Weeks, Week 34: Behind Bars

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Week 34 of 52 books in 52 weeks had me reading my first non-fiction book for the project (but no, before you ask, not my first non-fiction book, like, ever, or even this year) -- Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman.

For those of you who haven't heard about the book or haven't watched the excellent Netflix series based on it, Orange is the New Black is about Piper Kerman's one year stint in prison after a ten year old drug charge comes back to haunt her. Back then, Kerman was an edgy college student who liked sleeping with girls and clearly had a penchant for bad ones (her girlfriend is involved in a drug smuggling ring, which is who Kerman ends up smuggling drug money for.)

As the book opens, Kerman has given up her "sapphic ways" as she puts it, and is living a bobo lifestyle in Brooklyn with a sweet -- and extremely understanding, given the circumstances -- guy named Larry. Then her past comes to haunt her in the worst kind of way, and she finds herself heading to 13 months in prison after a long, and extremely stressful, wait.

I enjoyed this book. Kerman conveys both the sense of disconnection, depression, fear and horror that must overcome anyone who has to go to prison, even if that person is a lot tougher than a thirty-five year old woman who had long since put her brief criminal past behind her. There are indignities and abuses (though, as the TV show points out, not really of the "OZ" kind), but there are also friendships and tribal relationships and kindnesses in unexpected places.

I thought the one weakness of the book was that it ends on the day she leaves prison. Endings are always hard, of course, but I would have enjoyed a chapter on what it was like for her to reintegrate into her life after a year of being away from it. Perhaps she is saving that for a sequel.

For week 35 we'll be reading The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty.

And finally, the standings in our "favourite reads of the year" poll are currently as follows:

  1. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
  2. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
  3. And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini
  4. The Banks of Certain Rivers by Jon Harrison; and
  5. Divergent by Veronica Roth

Which one is your favorite?