Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman – Review

June 30, 2014

Orange is the New Black is the memoir by Piper Kerman detailing the year she spent in a women’s prison.  The drug related offences date from 10 years prior to her incarceration and in the meantime, Kerman had built a life for herself with a rewarding job and supportive fiancé.  The book has also been adapted into a successful Netflix Original television show, of which I have seen season one, and plan to binge watch season two in the very near future.  It should be noted that the TV series and the book, while both excellent, are very different beasts.  There is a lot of dramatisation in the TV show not present in the book, which, on the other hand, gives a very thoughtful, measured introspective into Kerman’s emotional journey during her incarceration.

I listened to the audiobook during my coach trip from Montreal to Toronto – a trip of about eight hours – and not only did it hold my attention through the trip, but I wanted to continue listening when I got home.  

What I liked

The narration.  Cassandra Campbell does an amazing job of providing the voiceover for Kerman’s emotional journey as well as creating distinct voices for each of the people Kerman meets during her stay.  You could easily tell who was talking by the voices.

Kerman’s emotional journey.  I really liked the way Kerman took responsibility for her actions that led to her indictment and imprisonment.  She made no excuses for her actions.  This was especially apparent when she was recounting her interactions with fellow inmates whose challenges included drug addiction.  It came across clearly that she was finally making the connection between her own actions and their consequences for those dependent on drugs.  

Voyeurism.  I admit to definite feelings of voyeurism reading this book.  I have never spent time in prison, and I hope never to do so, so it was fascinating to read about the details of day-to-day life in prison.  

What I didn’t like

Abrupt ending.  I felt the ending was rather abrupt – it ends literally as Kerman walks out of prison after having served her time.  I would have welcomed a chapter or two narrating how she adapted back to life as a free woman.

I would heartily recommend Orange is the New Black, both the book and TV series.  I gave the audiobook four and a half stars out of five.

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