The Uninnocent: Notes on Violence and Mercy

Katharine Blake. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $17 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-0-374-53852-1
Vermont Law School professor Blake debuts with an intimate and deeply moving meditation on trauma, healing, hope, and the criminal justice system. In 2010, Blake’s 16-year-old cousin Scott had a psychotic break and killed a nine-year-old boy in Louisiana; he was eventually sentenced to life in prison without parole. Blake, who had just completed her first year of law school at the time of the murder, grapples with the limited capacity of the legal system to remedy broken lives, and investigates heartbreak in its myriad forms, including grief at the loss of a loved one and the violence, abuse, and addiction present on both sides of her family. She also documents how her cousin’s legal situation shaped her own educational and career path, including a stint teaching English at San Quentin prison, and theorizes that acts of creation help people to make sense of grief. Distinguishing between justice and fairness, Blake contends that sentencing juvenile offenders to life without parole, even in cases of “irreparable corruption,” discounts the human potential for change, and posits that mercy has the power to break cycles of suffering. Crystalline prose, incisive inquiries into complex moral and legal matters, and candid reflections on the pain of losing hope make this a must-read. Agent: Gail Hochman, Brandt & Hochman. (Nov.)
Reviewed on : 08/19/2021
Release date: 11/02/2021
Genre: Nonfiction
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