Prison Book Club, The
After Ann Walmsley was mugged near her house in Hampstead, she found she was unable to walk alone down the street and it shook her belief in the fundamental goodness of people. In Canada a few years later, when her friend Carol asked her to participate in a bold new venture in a men's medium security prison, Ann had to weigh her curiosity and desire to be of service with her anxiety and fear.
But she signed up and for eighteen months went to a remote building a few hours outside of Toronto, meeting a group of heavily tattooed book club members without the presence of guards or security cameras. There was no wine and cheese, plush furnishings, or superficial chat about jobs or recent vacations. But a book club on the inside proved to be a place to share ideas, learn about each other, and regain humanity.
For the men, the books were rare prized possessions, and the meetings were an oasis of safety and a respite from isolation in an otherwise hostile environment. Having been judged themselves, they were quick to make judgments about the books they read. As they discussed the obstacles the characters faced, they revealed glimpses of their own struggles that were devastating and comic. From The Grapes of Wrath to The Cellist of Sarajevo, and Outliers to Infidel, the book discussions became a springboard for frank conversations about loss, anger, redemption, heroism and loneliness.
'I loved this book! What a powerful testament to the magic of story-telling.' Jeannette Walls, author of The Glass Castle 'Explores the intriguing tension between the lives of incarcerated men and the liberating effects of reading great books. A terrific read that offers a glimpse into a world that is at once constricted yet capable of great emotional generosity.' Steven Galloway, author of The Cellist of Sarajevo and The Confabulist 'A soulful exploration of men's hearts and minds, The Prison Book Club offers a unique window into inmates' lives. Funny and full of insight, Walmsley brings her best to the job at hand, winning us with tenderness. A wonderful read.' Ann Dowsett Johnston, author of the bestselling Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and
Ann Walmsley is a magazine journalist whose work has appeared in The Globe and Mail and Maclean's. She is the recipient of four National Magazine Awards, a Canadian Business Journalism Award and two International Regional Magazine Awards. She founded her first book club at age nine.