Personal Penitentiaries

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As we get older, we tend to change. For some this change may be very drastic, yet for others it might not happen at all. Jennifer Finney Boylan’s Long Black Veil demonstrates how one horrific night can affect the trajectory the rest of your life takes.

Judith Carrigan has lived an enjoyable life since arriving in Maine decades ago, but her life before traveling north was troublesome and anxiety-inducing. In Judith’s past is the disappearance and presumed death of her college friend Wailer while her group of friends were trapped within the walls of the abandoned Eastern State Penitentiary. As a key witness to corroborate Wailer’s husband Casey’s innocence, Judith needs to come to terms with her identity and what she’s willing to sacrifice to defend the truth.

Having recently visited Eastern State Penitentiary in the fall of 2016, I found this aspect to the story rather interesting and well-described, with the remainder of Philly and the Main Line settings well-written as the familiar backdrops they are to me. The many characters were sketched out quite well; however, they didn’t have much depth as there wasn’t the time or space to fully do so and also focus on the suspense aspect to the plot, which was enjoyable, as well as the variety of social topics it addressed, which was interesting. I found it a bit strange that there were differences in the narrative perspective offered – Judith was given a first person perspective while all the others in the group were given third person omniscient perspective. While I understand that this story is Judith’s and much of the focus was on her experiences, it wouldn’t have been as complete without the perspectives of the others and having the varying perspectives without much of a clear transition was jarring.

Overall, I’d give it a 3.5 out of 5 stars.

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