Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Abandoned: Life After Death by Damien Echols

First published: 2012
Page count: 399

The back says: In 1993, teenagers Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley, Jr. - who have come to be known as the West Memphis Three - were arrested for the murders of three eight-year-old boys in Arkansas. The ensuing trial was marked by tampered evidence, false testimony, and public hysteria. Baldwin and Misskelley were sentenced to life in prison, while eighteen-year-old Echols, deemed the 'ringleader,' was sentenced to death. Over the next two decades, the three men became known worldwide as a symbol of wrongful conviction and imprisonment, with thousands of supporters and many notable celebrities calling for a new trial. In a shocking turn of events, all three men were released in August 2011.

Now Echols shares his story in full - from abuse by prison guards and wardens, to portraits of fellow inmates and deplorable living conditions, to the incredible reserves of patience and perseverance that kept him alive and sane while incarcerated for nearly two decades.

I say: I saw an interview with Echols a couple of months ago and found his story very interesting, so it was with great excitement (if I may) that I picked this up. However, after struggling through the preface I found myself focusing more on the quality of the writing than the actual story. I was annoyed by the poor sentence structure, repetitious phrases, and really bad metaphors.

The prose was just awkward and disjointed.

Despite this I struggled on, determined to find out what had led Echols to Death Row – and what got him out – but after about five attempts, I give up at page 44.

A lot of people apparently love this (judging by a quick check on GoodReads) but I just couldn’t stand the writing.


  1. I had this on my TBR up until recently and then realized as interesting as it sounds, I probably wasn't going to read it. Then it shows up here on your blog and confirms that I made the right decision. Such a pity though as it's a fascinating story.

    1. Yeah, I wish he would have gotten a ghost writer to help him out. I'm not even sure what the editor was thinking, but oh well...

      Lots of other great books to focus on.