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God of the Rodeo: The Quest for Redemption…
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God of the Rodeo: The Quest for Redemption in Louisiana's Angola Prison

by Daniel Bergner

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There's not much cachet to prison reporting these days. Bergner's rich, probing and compassionate book is a rare look at both the physical and spiritual world on the other side of the bars.
 
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0345435532, Paperback)

Not since Truman Capote's In Cold Blood has a writer so humanely evoked the complicated, harrowing lives of violent convicts. At turns haunting and inspiring, God of the Rodeo is novelist-journalist Daniel Bergner's riveting account of a year spent visiting the maximum-security prison at Angola, Louisiana, also known as "the last slave plantation." Initially there to report on the prison's annual four-weekend rodeo in October 1996 for Harper's, he was able to extend his stay for a full year when he was granted complete, unsupervised access to the seven prisoners with whom he became most closely acquainted.

In God of the Rodeo, he introduces readers to rodeo champion Johnny Brooks, a 41-year-old "lifer" incarcerated for a murder he committed at the age of 18, who is engaged to marry a civilian woman he met at the rodeo. He's also the most promising candidate for parole. There's Terry Hawkins, a man who tries to seek salvation for the violent murder of his boss, the grotesque details of which haunt him, and Danny Fabre, plagued with comically large ears he desperately wants corrected by plastic surgery almost as much as he wishes to learn to read past the 6th-grade level. Perhaps the most striking figure is the stern, spiritual warden, Burl Cain, a self-proclaimed prophet who genuinely believes in redemption for even the most violent offenders.

Written with the eloquence of a poet and the perceptive eyes of a painter, Bergner's extremely well wrought, unforgettable book offers a rare glimpse into the hearts and souls of men who commit violence, finding hope and courage where few dare to look, without ever losing sight of the horrific crimes that landed them in America's most isolated prison. --Kera Bolonik

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:16 -0400)

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