Words fail me, except for OMG, WTF and whatever other net-centric acronyms exist to express shock.
If I could insert a shocked face emoticon, I would, flummoxed as I am by With Love From the Inside, the page-turning debut novel written by Angela Pisel.
With Love From the Inside
This novel, about the relationship between a mother on death row and her estranged daughter, packs a punch.
Grace Bradshaw was convicted of killing her infant son William. The charge was murder by Munchausen by proxy. With traces of poison found in his formula bottles, it appeared to be an open and shut case. Despite Grace’s protests of innocence, the evidence was irrefutable and she was sentenced to death.
It was a horrific case, to say the least. Understandably, her daughter Sophie, 12 years old at the time of the trial, was traumatized. The death of her brother had been tragic enough, but now her mother, from whom she had only known love, was apparently a monster.
Sophie continued to live with her father but after he died she moved away and tried to erase her family history forever. When asked, she said that her mother died of cancer years ago.
She never wanted to see her mother again.
When the story begins, Sophie is now in her late twenties and married. Her husband and his family know nothing about her background. She has managed to keep her secrets so far, but she is tormented by thoughts of her mother in prison.
With Love From the Inside is recounted from two points of view. As Sophie tells her story from the outside, Grace tells hers from her prison cell. With all appeals exhausted, there is seemingly nothing that can save her. She keeps a journal which allows her to “talk” to Sophie because she despairs of ever seeing her again. She wants to make sure that once she is gone Sophie will have this journal and will finally know how she felt about her daughter, the baby who died, and her experiences in jail.
In researching this book, author Pisel interviewed many women on death row, and her sensitivity to their plight illuminates the story. The descriptions of life in jail are stark and real: prison guards both sympathetic and cruel, rigidity of rules, tensions between inmates, the constant dehumanization.
Grace clings to hope for a reconciliation with her daughter as the clock ticks closer to the date of her execution. She begs her defender to find Sophie. And eventually he does.
But will Sophie want to see her mother?
Sophie struggles with two conflicting thoughts. Is her mother the personification of evil, as she has believed all this time? Or was something overlooked, something that could exonerate her mother and end this nightmare? Memories from childhood, repressed for so long, now reemerge, reminding her of the loving mother and happy family she once had.
This is an emotional and intense read, and the pace quickens in the last few chapters. It is also an indictment of our flawed justice system, in which too many innocent people have fallen through the cracks.
Will that happen to Grace? You’ll have to read the book to find out.
One of my lucky readers will receive a copy of With Love From the Inside. Please leave a comment and a winner will be randomly selected. USA addresses only, please.
I received a copy of With Love From the Inside from Putnam for an honest review, which is the only kind of review I write.