cover image Visiting Life: Women Doing Time on the Outside

Visiting Life: Women Doing Time on the Outside

Bridget Kinsella, . . Harmony, $24 (262pp) ISBN 978-0-307-33836-5

When things go very wrong, fleeing the scene of the disaster is a time-honored response. But in this memoir cum social history, PW 's West Coast editor Kinsella puts a new spin on an old story. When her husband of nine years announces that he is gay, she feels stripped of identity and purpose and heads west, seeking to start afresh. Launching a new career as a literary agent, she makes an unlikely friend: Rory Mehan, a convicted murderer doing life without parole at a maximum-security prison in northern California. But Rory is also a novelist, philosopher and doorway to a world Kinsella reveals in this book—one populated by the girlfriends, spouses and children of incarcerated men. The story is strongest when she turns the focus on these women and children. But there are also particularly poignant passages when Kinsella details her own struggle to come to terms with the fact that, at 40, she will most likely never have the children she had so desperately wanted. What becomes a romantic relationship with Rory raises core questions for her—a good Catholic girl and one-time honor student—about values and identity. Kinsella, though, seems less willing to go as deep as Rory or the women she profiles do in revealing those issues but still presents a powerful story. (June 12)