The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row by Anthony Ray Hinton

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My Review:  

The Sun Does Shine is a powerful and important memoir, showing a discouraging side of our legal system and an incredible testament of stamina and hope.

In 1985, Anthony Ray Hinton was convicted of murder in Alabama and sentenced to the electric chair.  He was a 29 year old, poor, black man who had a job, a happy disposition and was a devoted son to his loving mother.  The judicial system did not protect Hinton as it should have and he chose not speak for the first 3 years of his incarceration. Rebelling in silence as he wavered between anger and despair, he anticipated being put to death in the electric chair, knowing he was innocent but unable to prove it, despite every bit of evidence indicating the truth.

As time went on, and the legal system repeatedly failed him, Hinton decided to speak up, fight for justice, and he found a way to survive death row…for almost 30 years.  Visitation with his mother and best friend, Lester kept his spirits up.  He learned to exercise his imagination and transport himself to different times and places.   Finding comfort in this, he wanted to share the pleasure of escaping with his fellow inmates and he started a book club. He researched the law while spending his allotted “free” time in the prison library.  He sought out an attorney who had his best interests in mind and the drive to prove innocence.  He befriended the most unlikely alleged criminals and created a supportive and caring family for himself; sadly 54 of them were executed during his incarceration.

With joy and appreciation for his relentless attorney, the unwavering love and friendship of him mother and Lester, and genuine forgiveness in his heart, Anthony Ray Hinton was released in his late 50s, in 2015.

This memoir was upsetting and joyful at the same time.  The judicial system, race relations, prison conditions, and the death penalty all need to be reviewed, discussed, examined and improved so innocent people are not sent to jail, and people in jail are treated humanely.  We are not meant to live in a 5 x 7 cell for any amount of time and these conditions with little human contact can contribute to negativity, violence and hopelessness.  Putting people to death is barbaric and a poor precedent for a government of a free country to support.  Anthony Ray Hinton had incredible strength of character and faith to be able to re-enter life outside prison and find joy and purpose.  I admire his immense fortitude and ability to forgive.

I highly recommend this book.  Check out Oprah’s interview with the author.

Goodreads Summary

 

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About the Author:

ANTHONY RAY HINTON spent nearly thirty years on death row for crimes he didn’t commit. Released in April 2015, Hinton now speaks widely on prison reform and the power of faith and forgiveness. He lives in Alabama.

Before the Rain Falls by Camille Di Maio

 

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As stated in Goodreads:

After serving seventy years in prison for the murder of her sister, Eula, Della Lee has finally returned home to the Texas town of Puerto Pesar. She’s free from confinement—and ready to tell her secrets before it’s too late.

She finds a willing audience in journalist Mick Anders, who is reeling after his suspension from a Boston newspaper and in town, reluctantly, to investigate a mysterious portrait of Eula that reportedly sheds tears. He crosses paths with Dr. Paloma Vega, who’s visiting Puerto Pesar with her own mission: to take care of her ailing grandmother and to rescue her rebellious younger sister before something terrible happens. Paloma and Mick have their reasons to be in the hot, parched border town whose name translates as “Port of Regret.” But they don’t anticipate how their lives will be changed forever.

Moving and engrossing, this dual story alternates between Della’s dark ordeals of the 1940s and Paloma and Mick’s present-day search for answers about roots, family, love, and what is truly important in life.

 

My Comments:

Ok, still wiping away tears! Thank you Lake Union Publishing and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC of Before the Rain Falls. Author Camille Di Maio hit another home run with this emotional story of family, love, loss and secrets. Add to your TBR list right away; book will be available May 2, 2017.

In the 1940s Della was charged with murdering her sister and spent many years of her life in jail.  Now an old woman, she returns to her family home in Puerto Pesar, Texas, with no family or friends.  Around the same time, Paloma returns to the Texas home she grew up in to care for her grandma and reconnect with her teenage sister.  In Boston, aggressive journalist Mick, reprimanded for running a story with inaccuracies is sent to Puerto Pesar on a mission for a soft news story about a painting of a girl that appears to be crying.  Each chapter reveals more about Della and Paloma, and we get a glimpse into their families histories, revealing  how their lives are surprisingly intertwined.   Mick is the catalyst to bring Della, the old woman just out of jail who knows about the painting, and Paloma, his new friend together as he learns how asking the right questions and moving at a slower pace can lead to greater results and bring understanding, joy and love.

Through storytelling, author Camille Di Maio brings to light how decisions based on faith can be life changing, offering hope and a reason to live, but also causing one to protect a loved one leading to their own demise.  In contrast, always being pragmatic and factual may push one to achieve their goals to reach financial and career success, but relationships and a personal life may suffer and have an emptiness to it.  Before the Rain Falls is simultaneously heartbreaking, hopeful, and joyous: a story of complex characters with varied pasts and bright futures.  Loved it!

 

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If you missed Camille Di Maio’s stellar debut novel, The Memory of Us, you can order it here on Amazon.  I loved this one too!  Scroll back to read my book review in an earlier blog post.