A Grip of Time
When Prison Is Your Life
Published by: Red Lightning Books
A Grip of Time (prison slang for a very long sentence behind bars) takes readers into a world most know little about—a maximum-security prison—and into the minds and hearts of the men who live there. These men, who are serving out life sentences for aggravated murder, join a fledgling Lifers' Writing Group started by award-winning author Lauren Kessler. Over the course of three years, meeting twice a month, the men reveal more and more about themselves, their pasts, and the alternating drama and tedium of their incarcerated lives. As they struggle with the weight of their guilt and wonder if they should hope for a future outside prison walls, Kessler struggles with the fiercely competing ideas of rehabilitation and punishment, forgiveness and blame that are at the heart of the American penal system. Gripping, intense, and heartfelt, A Grip of Time: When Prison Is Your Life shows what a lifetime with no hope of release looks like up-close.
"The book provides insight into life inside a maximum-security prison while illuminating the benefits of the craft of writing. . . . This compassionate account reveals a bit of what life is like inside prison, and a bit about how writing can forge connections among vastly different people."~Publishers Weekly
Kessler gives a pulsing heart and a human face to this portion of the population all too often forgotten outside the walls. An incisive, welcome look at prison life in the U.S." ~Kirkus Reviews
With A Grip of Time, Lauren Kessler takes us on a compelling, intensely personal journey into the rarely glimpsed end point of our justice system. Through the lives and poignant stories of lifers, Kessler reveals the insidious truth behind America's world-record mass incarceration: The system is not, as many believe, failing at its job. It's doing exactly what it was designed to do—dehumanize inmates and leave them ill-equipped to rejoin society. What dignity, meaning, and success these lifers achieve come despite the system's design." ~Edward Humes, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of Burned: A Story of Murder and the Crime That Wasn't
What happens when hope is gone? A Grip of Time is the true-life story of a group of men sentenced to life in prison. They have gathered in a writing group, telling stories no one will ever hear. With a clear eye, Lauren Kessler writes of their journey—and her own. This is a devastating examination of guilt and remorse, of the unanswered questions of a nation that has pursued mass incarceration without even asking what justice means, or should be. Erased, vanished, haunted: this is a story not just about American prisoners, but of our country's moral code." ~Rene Denfeld, internationally bestselling author of The Child Finder
A Grip of Time is a beautiful, tender-hearted story of a group of prisoners for whom writing became their lifeline. Lauren Kessler avoids all the usual tropes in writing about prison, and has written a keenly observed and deeply felt narrative about what it means to be locked up for life. This book, so original and so compelling, took hold of me, and wouldn't let me go. It was revelatory." ~Alex Kotlowitz, bestselling author of There Are No Children Here
I have long admired Lauren Kessler. Her latest book, A Grip of Time, evinces unflinching sympathy for the incarcerated who would lift and transform themselves through writing their stories." ~Ted Conover, author of Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing
Book Lust with Nancy Pearl featuring Lauren Kessler
Journalist and narrative non-fiction writer Lauren Kessler explains the meaning behind the evocative title of her new book "A Grip of Time: When Prison Is Your Life." It's the story of her experience working with a writing group for men serving a life sentence in a maximum-security prison. She also hints at her next writing project, a true tale of a pathbreaking woman from the Victorian Era in Manhattan.