With the assistance of Burke (co-author: The Translator: A Tribesman's Memoir of Darfur, 2008), Hopwood delivers an unusual tale of punishment and redemption.
The author is frank and regretful about his youthful decision to rob five banks in the vast area around his small Nebraska hometown. When his crime spree unraveled, he wisely took a plea offer, resulting in a 12-year federal prison sentence. Without diminishing his own culpability, Hopwood writes affectingly of the prison experience: “It is beyond strange to be in such a place and feel your life freezing over, like a sci-fi story where you lie down in your rocket, not to return until everyone you know is old.” Although he was nervous about the intricate social behaviors required to survive in prison, he was luckily transferred from the kitchen to the prison legal library, where he discovered an aptitude for decoding court decisions. He also realized that helping his fellow prisoners with their appeals gave him a sense of moral balance. Improbably, one such filing, concerning a dubiously obtained confession, went all the way to the Supreme Court, and Hopwood worked with high-powered attorney Seth Waxman to prepare the ultimately successful argument. He also found time to strike up a long-distance romance with a beautiful but troubled girl from home. The author’s success helped him stay straight after his release, when he found employment at a printer of Supreme Court briefs. The prose is clear and thoughtful, vividly illustrating the grim absurdity of life in prison, and most readers will root for Hopwood’s attempts to follow a different path. However, some readers will tire of the author’s proselytizing tone with respect to his rediscovered Christian faith.
Will appeal to fans of legal thrillers and stories of redemption.