Just Mercy – Bryan Stevenson

Albert: This book was hard to read, not because it was bad, but because the (true) stories Stevenson tells are so emotional — I felt incredibly frustrated, sad, and angry while reading the book. Stevenson introduces the reader to about a dozen or so people he’s worked for as an activist lawyer, each with a story that provides a sobering perspective on how the justice system in America has failed due to systematic, corrupting influences (e.g. financial interests, racism, etc.). The main storyline centers on Walter McMillian, a man wrongfully convicted for murder (under flimsy evidence deliberately falsified by prosecutors). My only gripe with the book is how Stevenson likes to introduce new side stories without any sort of transition, which can be disorienting. But the book is so worthwhile and engrossing a read that I don’t think I can fairly penalize him for that. Rating: A

Kevin: I found this book incredibly sobering. In school, many of us learn about segregation, racism, capital punishment, and other related matters. We’re even aware, at least abstractly, of the shortcomings of the criminal justice system. But this book illustrates the true tragedy of these issues through compelling, heartbreaking stories supported by numerous case studies and statistics.

The writing is also masterful. I suspect the author could have easily written this book as a list of individual stories, but instead, he weaves them together with history, facts, and experiences from his own life. Rating: A

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