The New York Times bestselling memoir by Damien Echols of the West Memphis Three, who was falsely convicted of three murders and spent nearly eighteen years on Death Row—Life After Death is destined to be a classic of explosive, riveting prison literature.
I read an interview with John Grisham and the interviewer asked him what he was reading. He responded, a memoir called Life After Death by Damien Echols. He mentioned it was one of the best books he’s read in a long time. So I decided to get it.
When I began reading this book, I was riveted.
Damien Echols is an extraordinary writer. I was blown away by the way he writes. He is a true artist.
However, this book is no walk in the park. Nor is this the type of book I would normally gravitate to. Life is hard enough than to read about injustice to such severity, it made my blood boil.
I honestly do not know how Damien Echols survived it, much less, remained the positive person he is today with all the hell he endured. What resilience.
He was falsely accused and convicted of a crime he didn’t commit. He and two others were accused of murdering three boys in West Memphis, Arkansas. They did not do it. Someone else did and they still haven’t found out who.
Imagine being a teenager and spending 18 years on death row for a crime you didn’t commit? Being beaten by guards and surrounded by mentally ill inmates. Prison is full of the mentally ill who are not getting the help they need. They are put in prison to rot, meanwhile they are not well.
His memoir was difficult to read. I found myself disgusted, angry, sad, disillusioned and broken for him and all those who are on death row or in solitary confinement who are innocent.
I can’t find the words to describe how provoking this book is. This book describes the absolute brokenness of our prison system. It also sheds light on the corruption that exists in our court system.
If Damien Echols was standing in front of me today, I would apologize to him on behalf of all the Christians in his life that turned him away from Christ.
He depicts with such accuracy the judgmental and critical nature of Christians. While reading his experiences outside and inside of prison, I was embarrassed and ashamed. Instead of Christians being a light in his life, they were the complete opposite.
There is no other word to describe it other than disgusting.
I would tell Mr. Nichols, those were not followers of Christ. Those were lost, broken people, who were ignorant, confused and didn’t know an ounce about loving others.
As a result of this, he is not a Christian today. He became a buddhist in prison. He was treated better by Buddhists than Christians. After what he went through, I can’t quite blame him.
There was one part where he describes that when there was an execution scheduled, Christians would appear, but not on any other time. It was as if they enjoyed the excitement of someone being executed.
I can’t write it the way he describes it in his book. He is truly brilliant and a gifted writer. His writing is palatable for you see and feel everything.
I am glad he is free now and with his wife Lorri who helped him the most. There were many others, but she was the persistent one, who never gave up.
He also made mention that the prison system is designed for those to be forgotten by society, including family and friends. He said what gave him some hope and kept him going was receiving encouraging letters from strangers.
Overall, I would have to say this was the best book I read in 2013. Yes, it was the hardest to read, but it was most certainly the best. I highly recommend it, but it’s definitely not for the faint at heart.
Damien Echols was born in 1974 and grew up in Mississippi, Tennessee, Maryland, Oregon, Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas. At age eighteen he was wrongfully convicted of murder, along with Jason Baldwin and Jessie Miskelley, Jr. Echols received a death sentence and spent almost eighteen years on Death Row, until he, Baldwin, and Miss Kelley were released in 2011. The West Memphis Three have been the subject of Paradise Lost, a three-part documentary series produced by HBO, and West of Memphis, a documentary produced by Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh. Echols is the author of a self-published memoir, Almost Home. He and his wife, Lorri Davis, live in Massachusetts.