“Rachel Kushner writes some seriously smart and gorgeous prose, so when she headed to prison in The Mars Room, I went. It is dark. It is painful. At times, the level of detail in the book and its fabulously invented and drawn characters make it feel like a documentary. We are struggling with so many social justice issues across the country right now it is overwhelming, and I worried that The Mars Room would push me over the edge. Instead, I couldn't stop reading. What really happened? Who is to blame? How will things turn out? How can we make things better? Ultimately, Kushner's great success is profoundly illustrating a very simple message: It's complicated.”Sara Hinckley, Hudson Booksellers
“Told from the perspectives of prisoners, victims, and staff, Kushner’s stunning depiction of a women’s prison centers on Romy Hall, twenty-nine and serving two life sentences for killing her stalker. Because she worked as a lap dancer, her public defender believed she’d hurt her case if she testified, so her story never came out in court. That’s just one of many outrages Romy is helpless to address. Worse is discovering she’s lost parental rights to her seven-year-old. Even so, the knowledge that her son exists is Romy’s life line. He gives her courage to endure, and even to plan a kind of future—even in the age of mass incarceration, which, the prisoners note, has made prison more horrifying than it was before.”Laurie G., Politics & Prose
“The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner gives insight into life behind prison walls as well as the kind of lives lived that might land one there. Actually, many stories are bound together in this unique novel. A former stripper in for life without parole, a prison GED teacher and a dirty cop are the primary storytellers along with a host of colorful cell mates and acquaintances. The backstories are particularly interesting as there are so many commonalities regarding current social maladies: single parenthood, drugs, poverty, neglect and poor education to name a few. Grimly realistic and fascinating.”Phyllis, Wellesley Books
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