Book Review | Stolen Years: Stories of the Wrongfully Imprisoned – Reuven Fenton

stolenThere’s no way around it: Stolen Years: Stories of the Wrongfully Imprisoned was a difficult book to read. It was also engrossing, gripping, sometimes funny, and, most of all, it was important.

Ten different stories are covered here, each one totally heartbreaking. The author does an excellent job of offering facts without judgement. I’ve read similar books in the past that had the aggravating flaw of tripping all over themselves to try and convince the reader that the person in question was in fact innocent. In each of these stories, there was ample evidence that the people imprisoned were not guilty of their crimes.

One of the things I loved about this book was how well Fenton did in rendering these people as human beings, and yes, human beings with flaws. They were intimate looks at these folks, and their families. My favorite part of each story was the description of their first meal after they were exonerated. About half of them were like, “HO BOY, BEST MEAL OF MY LIFE!” and the other half were like, “I don’t know, I don’t even remember, why?” As a foodie, I know I’d be dreaming of my first real meal for the entirety of the decades I was imprisoned, so I was all about reading the answers to these questions.

I also appreciated some insight into how difficult it was for these folks to come home, in a variety of ways. Some of them were locked up for decades and came home to totally different families, and many had children who had long accepted they were guilty and were simply uninterested in reconsidering that guilt, despite exoneration. All of the stories included interesting details about how confusing technology was when they were released.

Reading this book certainly involves some feelings of “God damn, what can I do to make a difference?” and thankfully the author included a list of actual things we can do as a society, and things we can do individually. For example, there’s a discussion about the ways in which the media reports on these issues. Namely, there often isn’t enough coverage, and it’s been shown time and time again that the cases that get the most coverage get a speedier result. So what can we do about that? Encourage the media to report on it! When we see a media outlet reporting on a case like this, share the article, comment on it, and send an email to the editor directly telling them that you enjoyed this article and would like to see more like it. If just a few dozen people started doing this, it could have a significant impact.

Overall, I found no fault in this book. The subject was important, the writing was intimate, accessible, and interesting. This is a book I wish everyone would read.

*NOTE* I received this book at no cost from the publisher via the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program.

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