The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner

At the center of this book is Romy Hall, a stripper and single mom who gets sentenced to life in prison for killing a man who was stalking her–having had no decent defense put on at her trial. But there are a lot of voices around hers, about life both in and out of prison– in particular, Gordon Hauser, a young man who comes to teach English in the prison and struggles with boundaries, Doc, the crooked cop who also gets a life sentence for participating in a murder with one of the women in prison with Romy, and, yes, Kurt Kennedy, the stalker/murder victim. It’s really quite bleak, and although all the pieces do intersect, they don’t do so neatly (as is Kushner’s way). I was fully drawn in, and felt a sense of immersion in another world, despite its close relationship to my day-to-day work.

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