Saturday, January 28, 2017

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson Review

Title: Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption
Author: Bryan Stevenson
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Nonfiction, memoir
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

I borrowed this book through my local library and reviewed it.

Just Mercy was one of my library's book club selections for the month of February. I hadn't heard of the book before, and I wasn't sure what it was about. I was a little leery at first, as nonfiction normally isn't my jam. But I'm so, so glad that I read this book. It is inspiring, heartbreaking, at times frustrating and angering. It is absolutely a necessary book--this book will remain in my heart forever, and at the end of it, I feel so many emotions: anger, despair, hope, motivation. My entire worldview is changed by every single word of the shocking, true stories that Bryan Stevenson tells, with tenderness, passion, and complete humanity. It made me laugh, cry, and want to tear my hair out in frustration. In turn, it inspired me, to be a better person, for myself and for my fellow human beings. Frankly, I'm just bowled over.

Bryan Stevenson's extensive tenure in the broken, biased machine that is the American justice system begins at Harvard Law school, with an internship. Later on, he begins the Equal Justice Initiative, and spends the whole of his career tirelessly working at righting wrongs, like a saint in the flesh, almost. He soon felt he found his calling, and that's certainly true to me; he casts a harsh, blinding spotlight on the cracks, big and small, in the law, as well as the glaring racial bias in law enforcement around the country. Despite a lot of lawyer terms, Stevenson explained everything very well.

This book was like a punch to the gut, a blow to the heart; I'm still weeping thinking about it as I write this. It was so shocking, and eye-opening, especially considering that I'm white. Stevenson passionately defends the impoverished, the helpless, what a lot of people would consider the dregs of society. And it is his passion, driven by personal experiences that draw on the mercy in the title.

Frankly, I haven't thought much about the death penalty. But after reading this book, I do not agree with it. It is inhumane and cruel, and nobody deserves to die for making a bad choice, or being in the wrong place at the wrong time, whatever it may be. This book should be required reading for everyone. It is often difficult, and will bring up some big questions, but that's exactly why we should read it. Now that I have, I'm really kicking myself for having not read it sooner. God, this book got me feeling all the feels! The bottom line: An extremely relevant memoir about the American justice system and the death penalty, Just Mercy should be necessary reading for everyone. Next on deck: My Sister Rosa by Justine Larbalestier!

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