I was intrigued by this book because I’m randomly a big fan of prison shows like Locked Up and Girls Incarcerated. I thought this would be a fictional, literary interpretation of those shows. It sort of was…but it wasn’t quite what I expected so I enjoyed it slightly less.
I was prepared to follow Romy as she serves several consecutive life sentences in a California prison, and I did…until I didn’t. All of a sudden we get the perspectives of some other characters. I don’t normally mind this, except some of these characters’ stories just sort of…fall off. There are some loose ends that aren’t tied up. That’s what I didn’t love about the book. I wanted it to come together just a bit more. Either it should have focused entirely on Romy or worked a bit harder to bind the other characters’ stories. Some of these stories and Thoreau quotes felt haphazardly tossed in – though the quotes had real potential to make this story interesting and unique. This was one of those “so close!” but doesn’t quite click situations.
What I did like is that Rachel Kushner’s novel made me think, specifically about socioeconomics and the role they play both in driving people to prison and what happens to those people once they’re there. The rules of this game are not fair. That’s what makes it interesting and heartbreaking.
3 out of 5 stars.