Monday, January 3, 2011

Dead Man Walking: an eyewitness account of the death penalty in the United States by Helen Prejean

When Sister Helen Prejean agreed to become a penpal to a prisoner on death row, it began a chain of discoveries that have lead her to become a well-known advocate of abolishing the death penalty in the USA. As she got to know Pat Sonnier and subsequent prisoners she learned their side of the story and the problems they often experienced in trial. She met the families of these people and the families of their victims, as well as the men and women whose job it was to legally kill killers, even when they didn't believe it was the right thing to do.

This book was intense. By the time I had read about the first death Sister Helen went to, I was pacing my room. I couldn't sit still. The lead-up and worry and minuscule chance that it would be called off were more page-turning and stomach-churning than most books that are written for that effect. Sister Helen is a good writer, although she had a tendency to stick in clumps of statistics in poorly placed spots that were hard to slog through and broke the flow of the story. The other thing that annoyed me somewhat was the fact that she relied heavily on emotional and moral appeals rather than showing facts that backed up her claims, except for these info clumps where it seemed she had gone, done research, stuck it in there, and gone back to her story where we don't see much citation for her statements and they remain unconvincing to anyone who doesn't already agree with her stances. (Well, perhaps not too many folks who disagree with her are reading this book anyway.)

Good, harsh look at these secretive systems, but the pacing could have been a lot better.

4 Stars


No comments:

Post a Comment