The Graybar Hotel

Curtis Dawkins. Scribner, $26 (224p) ISBN 978-1-5011-6229-9
Set mostly in jails and prisons—the author is himself serving a sentence of life without parole—the 14 stories in this debut collection give a fascinating human dimension to the lives of prisoners and the world that they inhabit. In “A Human Number,” the convict narrator discovers that his random phone calls from jail reach outsiders who are as desperate as he is to communicate with another person. The narrator of “573543” ponders the fate foreordained for prisoners who inherit their identifying numbers from previously deceased inmates. “In the Dayroom with Stinky” sets the tone for its portrait of an eccentric prisoner with the narrator’s bracingly honest admission, “Most of my friends have killed someone.” Dawkins’s tales impress with the authenticity of real-life experience, and his prose is rich in metaphor and imagery—as when he describes one prisoner’s arraignment as “his courtroom wedding to the state of Michigan, till death do you part,” and how the fogged-up windows of a prison transport van “effectively erased us” from the outside world. His often wryly amusing observations about the routines of prison life make him a striking guide for navigating the terrain. (July)
Reviewed on: 05/29/2017
Release date: 07/04/2017
Open Ebook - 224 pages - 978-1-5011-6231-2
Downloadable Audio - 978-1-5082-3639-9
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