I found this book to be an easy read and a quick read. It was not exactly gripping where I had to know what was next, but I definitely was anxious to continue reading. The real appeal may not have been Neil’s experience for me. His story and the lessons he learned were nice, but I was just completely curious about a place that was a prison to criminals and at the same time a refuge to medical outcasts.
The truths Neil learned are basics; a good life with loved ones does not require wealth. It is vital to be honest without worrying about your image. Helping others is nobler than winning awards. I was glad he learned those things, we all should but it was not what made the story interesting to me.
Ella was easily the character I was drawn to the most. I did enjoy Link too though. I loved the message that life changing relationships developed in this strange location where the river runs North (does it really??) though the people never would have been friends outside of the magic that was Carville. Not everyone gets a chance like that so it was definitely story worthy to me.
Some things that stuck with me after reading were in Ch 36 where Neil described how he used to date beauty queens and after time, their stunning beauty became common. He said the same thing happened with the leper patients. Over time, their deformities & disfigurements faded into the norm. On both sides of the spectrum, after time physical traits disappear. I wish more people comprehended that and put less importance into the physical. It was comical to me that Neil wanted to wear cologne while in prison so I was glad he got over his definition of beauty by the end of the book.
My favorite Link moments include Ch 30 when dealing with a leprosy patient, he called him a leper. Smeltzer got upset and told Link ‘don’t call me that’. Link said ‘you got leprosy don’t you? What you want me to call you then?’ Smeltzer did not know. That was profoundly sad to me but I love Link’s candor.
Also in Ch 38 after his wife told Neil she was divorcing him, Link asked why Neil was sad. He told Link about the divorce and he laughed. He said ‘you a liar, you lost $2 million and you in jai! What you think she gonna do?!?’ I paraphrased to keep the eff words out.
The last thing I found so noteworthy was something Neil’s mother said to him in Ch 41. He did not want to live in the town his children were in and had a long list of valid reasons why. His mom told him ‘you either live in the same town with your children…or you don’t. There is no in between.’ I don’t think people get that. I dare say fathers don’t get it. It is so important for parents to put aside their own wants for the needs of the children. I was so glad Neil got that!