Neil White is convicted of a white collar crime and sentenced to one year in a minimum security prison. Upon arrival, he quickly learns that Carville is much more than he had expected. Not only is it a prison, it is also a leprosarium.
At first Neil is alarmed, but the more time he spends at the prison, the more he realizes that the patients have much to teach him about life...a wealth of wisdom learned from being the outcasts of society. As his relationships grow with the patients, so does his self-awareness and desire to change.
I really really enjoyed this book for a couple of different reasons. The first is the history contained in the pages of this memoir was history I had never learned or heard of before. It was shocking and touching all at the same time. To be honest, when I think of leprosy (now called Hansen's Disease) I think of the Biblical stories (only one came back!!! ;) and I think of India. And really that's it. I have never thought about what it was like for those afflicted in the United States or what they went through. Which just emphasizes how much society chose to forget them...to banish them not only from sight but also from mind. It's heartbreaking.
Secondly, I was really impressed with how honest Neil was about his own journey. He completely owned up to the crime he had committed, the fact that it deeply hurt a lot of people, and the flaws in his own ways of thinking that had led him down that path. I think it takes a lot of guts to do that.
One of the things I really puzzled over was just how long it took this story to get told. Neil was at Carville in the early 90s. It might be somewhere in the press papers, but either it took that long to get published, or he really let the life lessons have time to sink in.
The memoir is told with a mixture of stories about the other prisoners at Carville, the patients, and Neil's own life. It' engaging at every turn, and even quite funny at points. Many photographs are included. I do recommend this one.
Things You Might Want to Know: There is some language.