COUNTING THE DAYS by Leslie Rutkin

COUNTING THE DAYS

366 Days in Prison
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KIRKUS REVIEW

Rutkin’s debut memoir recalls her yearlong separation from her husband, a cop, as he was imprisoned for stealing money from drug dealers.

In 1976, the author’s new husband, Matthew Smith, was indicted on charges of grand larceny—just four days into their honeymoon. After a drug bust the previous year, five officers had stolen $30,000 in cash from the suspects; Smith’s share of the take had been $3,000. (“They weren’t doing anything different than anyone else on the job,” he later told Rutkin for this book.) Smith refused to turn state’s evidence against other cops, and beginning in September 1977, he served 366 days in prison. Rutkin was understandably angry, as well as sad, lonely, and worried; she also had financial troubles, including bankruptcy, to handle. But she was determined to bolster her husband through his depression, isolation, shame, and fear. The couple wrote to each other nearly every day in letters filled “with our love and longing, with day-to-day, hour-to-hour chronologies of our comings and goings.” Over time, Rutkin learned to address her own emotional needs and detach when cheering up her husband became exhausting. At length, the couple resumed a normal life after his release in 1978, and they’re still married today. Although readers may not have much sympathy for Smith at first, his letters and Rutkin’s writing provide a balanced view of events. Extracts from Smith’s well-written letters give readers vivid glimpses of prison life—jobs, friendships, his attempts to better his placement—as well as of his own feelings; they portray a sensitive, intelligent man with a deep need for belonging. Rutkin’s contemporary comments strengthen the memoir by adding nuance to the story told in the letters: “I choke on the dreams that flit through them…I get dizzy with these pages and pages of pie-in-the-sky affirmations.” But although the book is insightful, some readers may not find the separation to be as significant as Rutkin does, due to its relative brevity.

An emotional account that will particularly interest prisoners and their families.

Pub Date: May 12th, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-4685-3921-9
Page count: 328pp
Publisher: AuthorHouse
Program: Kirkus Indie
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