A prison correspondence program brings together two unlikely souls.
When, out of loneliness and perhaps a bit of misplaced idealism, Kathryn Rose Andreassen signs up for the Inmate Pen Pal Program at Capshaw prison in Alabama, her best friend warns her against such an apparent act of folly and desperation. But her decision seems to be vindicated when, writing as “Kris,” she increasingly begins to enjoy the letters she gets from an inmate named Scott Logan, who confesses up front that he’s guilty of the robbery and assault for which he’s serving his sentence and seems entirely honest and open with her. The beginning of Iverson’s winning novel about the relationship that forms between these two is conducted mainly through the letters themselves, but readers gradually learn the two major factors complicating any potential romance between Scott and Katie: she’s black (to Scott’s surprise), and he’s not only white, but a racist who, mainly due to the violence of his past, harbors a great deal of anger and resentment against black people (scenes of his background as well as his daily grim reality in prison are grippingly portrayed). When Scott is released early due to a combination of good behavior and prison overpopulation, he and Katie decide to try forming a relationship. Iverson smoothly handles the personal elements of her story with skill. Katie and especially Scott are drawn with pleasing complexity, and the cast of supporting characters—particularly Katie’s sassy best friend, Teal, and Katie’s formidable prison warden father—are fleshed out well. The narrative builds to a climax that’s slightly pat (Scott’s racism turns out to be the kind that’s relatively easily cured), but the portrait of two lonely people taking serious chances to connect with someone else is sensitively rendered, and Iverson’s ear for dialogue is very good. The societal prejudices Scott and Katie face—both toward ex-convicts and mixed-race couples—are unflinchingly dramatized, which makes the book’s concluding chapters all the more satisfying.
A gripping, complicated novel of tense interracial romance.