I find this a difficult book to review–at least for me personally–let me preface this with the reasons why. I want this review to be fair and honest so I would like everyone who reads this to understand my position.
This is not my genre, nor is it my standard reading material. I tend to review literary fiction, genre fiction, non-fiction historical, and classics. I teach English Literature. I am not familiar with the writing style of this author or the subject matter at hand, and I lived in Crescent City, California so I may have a bit of a preexisting opinion of the City and Pelican Bay from that. I will do my best to offer an impartial review regardless.
Glenn Langohr has written a gritty book filled with truth about the side of prison life that we don’t see from the outside. He writes from a position of authority, having lived what he writes about first hand. This makes his writing very honest, but also difficult for me to judge by my usual standards. I can’t say that this was the most refined writing I have ever read, but the honest truth is–it didn’t matter.
The tale this author weaves begins in a way I hadn’t expected, and I wasn’t sure what to think. The first chapter fumbled a little in my opinion, as though he was trying to find his legs beneath him. After that, the book really took off and it was impossible to put down after that. The story he tells of how inmates are treated at Pelican Bay was difficult for me to reconcile as I do know what a boost to the economy the prison brought to one of Northern California’s most desperate cities. I do believe his story, and I feel for those who have had to live through the things he spoke of, but sometimes it is hard to accept reality–especially when you are used to seeing the other side of the coin.
What I liked about this book the most, and what I felt earned this book the four stars I gave it, was Glenn’s ability to retain the reader’s interest. He may not have attended a fancy university to hone his craft of writing, but there is such a human element to his words and his ability to connect with you as you read his story on a personal level made this the kind of book you want to keep reading and tell your friends about. His message at the end of the story is both compassionate and detailed, which added a lot to this book in my opinion.
The one negative I will mention, and it is just my opinion of course, is that I don’t get the cover. It somehow reminds me of ‘Joker’ from batman, and I don’t really get what it has to do with the story. It looks cool, but I also think it might make this book seem a little more fantasy than reality and might frighten off some of the more mature people who would ordinarily pick this book up and give it a try.
** Update: I have just discovered that the cover I am looking at is only one of the covers. So, disregard this last part if you have the orange and black cover, which is perfectly appropriate for the story.
Overall, this was short, unexpected and something that I think has a lot of value, both as entertainment and a dose of reality.
This review is based on a digital copy from the author. My opinions are my own.