Albert: I imagined some wacky psychological stuff must happen in this story, since it takes place in prison, but it actually turned out to be more peaceful than I expected. There were surprising supernatural elements in the story, which I’m not sure how I feel about because while they were interesting, they also felt out of place. Several plot elements towards the end also felt contrived, which may be a result of how the story was released in several parts.
Overall, I think the most noticeable feature of this story was how masculine the story felt, likely due to the prison setting and the psychological and physical dominance that characters repeatedly tried to establish over each other. There are only 2 female characters vs. ~10 male characters, which was understandable given the setting. What was less understandable was the narrator Paul’s wife, who was one of the most useless characters I’ve read in recent memory. Her solution to every problem Paul faced was to offer sex. This happened so frequently that I couldn’t help but think a walking vagina would be just as helpful to Paul. Rating: C+
Kevin: I read this during Summer 2013, and I liked it so much that I suggested we read it next. The bulk of the book is a memoir of Paul, a former prison guard for those convicted to die by electric chair. He reflects on the inmates, his coworkers and friends, his wife, and of course, his adventures. Death is a recurring theme and to me, that sets a very reflective tone, which I like a lot in a book.
For me, the second time through was just as good as the first, but in different ways. Although the striking scenes weren’t as striking, I enjoyed the writing element a lot more this time since I wasn’t as focused on the plot. I think it goes without saying that the story flows very well and has many touching moments. At the same time, it illustrates multiple ideas and truths, especially about justice, that have really stuck with me. Rating: A