Things I’ve Learned from Dying: A Book About Life

David R. Dow, Author
David R. Dow. Hachette/Twelve, $25 (274p) ISBN 978-1-4555-7524-4
Reviewed on: 11/04/2013
Release date: 01/07/2014
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Lawyer Dow (Autobiography of an Execution) eloquently draws us into this gracefully told memoir about his angry and painful struggles to sort out the lessons that death teaches us about living. During the time that Dow is preparing appeals for Waterman, a death row inmate, his father-in-law is diagnosed with cancer, and his family’s beloved dog is found to have an inoperable and ultimately fatal liver tumor. An engaging storyteller, Dow weaves elegantly each person’s story into a colorful and emotionally wrenching narrative that covers his fiercely honest struggle to make sense of life and death. Early on, his father-in-law reflects on the career of his cancer: “The problem is the emotional change the physical pain has caused, and it is too late to do anything about that change.” After an especially trying day working on the Waterman case, Dow expresses his frustrations with the system: “People who think bogus legal proceedings happen only in places like Iran or China apparently have not been to Texas… Anybody who tells you the criminal justice system is an even playing field has no idea what she’s talking about.” Dow’s moving tale leaves us with a tough questions: “Which is better: to be able to circle the date on a calendar five years from today when your life will end? Or to get flattened by a truck crossing the street and never see it coming?” Agent, Simon Lipskar, Writers House. (Jan.)
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