Life After Death

( 73 )

Overview

The New York Times bestselling memoir by Damien Echols of the West Memphis Three, who was falsely convicted of three murders and spent nearly eighteen years on Death Row—Life After Death is destined to be a classic of explosive, riveting prison literature.

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Life after Death

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Overview

The New York Times bestselling memoir by Damien Echols of the West Memphis Three, who was falsely convicted of three murders and spent nearly eighteen years on Death Row—Life After Death is destined to be a classic of explosive, riveting prison literature.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Wrongly convicted at 18 along with two other teenagers and sentenced to death for the 1993 murder of three eight-year-old boys in West Memphis, Ark., Echols spent nearly two decades in prison before being released in August 2011. In this searing, finely wrought memoir, Echols recalls his poverty-stricken childhood, the trial of the West Memphis 3, and the harsh realities of life on death row. Sent there in 1994, Echols journaled consistently, though many notebooks were destroyed by guards. Echols describes death row as the equivalent of solitary confinement, his only human contact the infrequently allowed visitors from the outside world. Even sunlight and fresh air were denied at Varner Super Max, the facility he was transferred to in 2003. Echols recalls his less than ideal home life, with a mother who cultivated drama and a stepfather he despised (the feeling seems to have been mutual). The most affecting sections are Echols’s philosophical musings on all he has lost, his thoughts often influenced by Zen Buddhism. In one journal entry that survived the guards’ purge, Echols contemplates what he misses the most while in prison. The answer is a heart-wrenching and simple commentary on American prison life: “In the end it’s not the fruit I miss most... I miss being treated like a human being.” (Sept.)
Library Journal
Echols is one of the West Memphis Three (WM3), convicted in 1994 of the murders of three boys in West Memphis, Arkansas. Echols was sentenced to death as the purported leader of what the prosecution asserted had been a deadly satanic ritual. After spending 18 years in prison, with Echols on Death Row, the WM3 were released in 2011 after years of appeals and the presentation of new forensic evidence. Here, Echols traces his life from his impoverished and difficult childhood to his false conviction and his years in prison. The chapters on his earlier life alternate with his impressions of and commentary upon his life on Death Row. Echols's rescue took the form of a devoted woman, Lorri Davis, whom he married while imprisoned, the support of celebrities like Johnny Depp and Eddie Vedder, and an HBO documentary, Paradise Lost, that publicized and examined the West Memphis Three's case. VERDICT Though its chronology is sometimes choppy, this is an eloquent, even bitterly lyrical, portrayal of how an innocent man can slip through the cracks of the legal system and struggle to survive. Compelling and deeply moving, in the tradition of Helen Prejean's Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the United States and Norman Mailer's The Executioner's Song, this memoir will appeal to a wide audience. [Look for LJ's interview with the author, online only.—Ed.]—Antoinette Brinkman, Evansville, IN
Kirkus Reviews
Exceptional memoir by the most famous of the West Memphis Three. In 1993, Echols (Almost Home, 2005) was convicted, along with Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley Jr., in the case of the sadistic sex murders and mutilations of three young boys in the woods around their hometown of West Memphis, Ark. The state's case was based almost entirely on the confession wrung out of Misskelley, who, writes the author, had the "intellect of a child," and who recanted soon afterward. Witnesses' testimonies to Echols' "demonic" character sealed the defendants' fates. Baldwin and Misskelley each received life sentences; Echols, perceived to be the ringleader of an alleged "satanic cult," was sentenced to death. Over the next decade, an HBO trilogy of documentaries on the case, collectively titled Paradise Lost, helped spark an international campaign to free the West Memphis Three. Johnny Depp, Eddie Vedder, Henry Rollins and Peter Jackson were among the celebrities who became personally involved in the case; thanks to their efforts, and especially those of Echols' wife, Lorri, whom he met during his prison term, the three were released in August 2011. Those bare facts alone would make for an interesting story. However, Echols is at heart a poet and mystic, and he has written not just a quickie one-off book to capitalize on a lurid news story, but rather a work of art that occasionally bears a resemblance to the work of Jean Genet. A voracious reader all his life, Echols vividly tells his story, from his impoverished childhood in a series of shacks and mobile homes to his emergence after half a lifetime behind bars as a psychically scarred man rediscovering freedom in New York City. The author also effectively displays his intelligence and sensitivity, qualities the Arkansas criminal justice system had no interest in recognizing during Echols' ordeal. Essential reading for anyone interested in justice or memoir.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780142180280
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 5/7/2013
  • Pages: 416
  • Sales rank: 109,147
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Damien Echols

Damien Echols was born in 1974 and grew up in Mississippi, Tennessee, Maryland, Oregon, Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas. At age eighteen he was wrongfully convicted of murder, along with Jason Baldwin and Jessie Miskelley, Jr. Echols received a death sentence and spent almost eighteen years on Death Row, until he, Baldwin, and Misskelley were released in 2011. The West Memphis Three have been the subject of Paradise Lost, a three-part documentary series produced by HBO, and West of Memphis, a documentary produced by Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh. Echols is the author of a self-published memoir, Almost Home. He and his wife, Lorri Davis, live in Massachusetts.

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Read an Excerpt

I have the shape of a dead man on the wall of my cell. It was left behind by the last occupant. He stood against the wall and traced around himself with a pencil, then shaded it in. It looks like a very faint shadow, and it’s barely noticeable until you see it. It took me nearly a week to notice it for the first time, but once you see it you can’t un-see it.…Perhaps it’s just superstition, but I can’t help feeling that erasing it would be like erasing the fact that he ever existed. That may not be such a bad thing, all things considered, but I won’t be the one to do it.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 73 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(47)

4 Star

(9)

3 Star

(8)

2 Star

(1)

1 Star

(8)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 73 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 19, 2012

    This book tells the story from Damien's perspective, which until

    This book tells the story from Damien's perspective, which until now was only available through pieces of interviews. If you have been following the West Memphis Three case or have any interest in the case at all, then this book is a must read.

    14 out of 14 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 23, 2012

    I loved this book. I couldn't put it down. I could feel Damien's

    I loved this book. I couldn't put it down. I could feel Damien's pain in his words. My favorite part is the way he talks about his wife. You can tell he loves her with all of his heart and soul just by the way he talks about her. His story is very moving and I felt very emotional reading about his experiences on death row. How he wrote about the other inmates is very powerful. I am so happy that Damien, Jessie and Jason are out of prison but they are not truely free until their names are cleared. God bless Lorii Davis' kind heart for never giving up fighting for their freedom. I highly recommend this book to anyone. Keep writing Damien!!!!!

    11 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 23, 2012

    An incredible read from a gifted writer with a beautiful soul.

    My heart was broken to read the inexcusible treatment of this sensitive, loving, intelligent boy then man who was failed by society. I cried when he described his arrrest, coonviction, and treatment in prison. How this could happen is beyond my comprehension as an American citizen. The book is beautifully written and descriptive prose reveals the inner goodness of the author and the strength of his character. I pray that he experiences healing , love, and true joy for the rest of his life.

    11 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 21, 2012

    18 years..it's hard to get past the time the WM3 had to survive

    18 years..it's hard to get past the time the WM3 had to survive before finally being released. Damien Echols writes a poetic description of his life before prison and the equal time spent inside his cell. His fight and will are inspiring. The non chalant writing of outrageous prisoners he encountered is humorous at times and profoundly disturbing. It makes you think time and time again how people/Arkansas can live w themselves knowing they were ironically killing 3 innocent teens of their freedom as the real killer did to the 3 boys.

    11 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 21, 2012

    This book is terrible and a waste of money. Only fans of Echols

    This book is terrible and a waste of money. Only fans of Echols will be able to get through this horribly written story. I did my research and I am certain that many prison details are out and out lies.

    8 out of 32 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 6, 2012

    ANONYMOUS october 5, 2012

    I rarely write a review but this book is so badly written and ridiculous that people who are thinking about buying this book and spending $12.99 need to know. This man is on the pity pot from birth til the present and no one should spend money to listen to this nonsense. I keep thinking that the book will get better but unfortunately it doesn't. It is just one "poor me" scenario after another. Pure rubbish!!!

    6 out of 23 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 12, 2013

    Dear idiot who said the book was subaverage,

    You obviously didn't read the Author's Note. If you had you would have seen Damien Echols said it was snippets of writing that survived the cell raids. This book was not meant to be contiguous. Before you write a review that is so idiotic and easy to show where you missed your vital piece of information, make sure you're right or can make a good arguement over aspects of the book.
    Sincerely,
    You jusr got told by a fifteen year old.

    5 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 3, 2012

    amanda

    for a man who didn't finish high school and spent 18 years in prison, echols sure has a way with words. he writes beautifully, yet with no fluff. raw, emotional honesty. if you know everything about the west memphis 3, you should read this. if you know nothing about the west memphis 3, you should read this.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 1, 2012

    Sub-average writing and feels like a hodge-podge of individual s

    Sub-average writing and feels like a hodge-podge of individual snippets akwardly stitched together to make a longer book. The overall attitude of self-pity throughout is also very off-putting.
    Felt like this was a total waste of my money.

    4 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 26, 2012

    Affecting...

    I loved this book. This is one of the most poingant books I've ever read. I felt like I was with Damien throughout his childhood, having those experiences with him - some I sympathized with, some I empathized with, and some I could have never imagined. Beyond the night of his arrest I was horrified at the unfolding of events as they happened through Damien's youthfully naive eyes, and his time on death row left me feeling empty and desperate. The hope in the story came to me through a letter from a woan who didn't want to pry, a bird on a window ledge, and a simple container of water infused with moonglow.

    I am inspired by Damien's writing, angered by the injustice of a corrupt system, grieving for a lost youth, and yearning to read more of Damien future.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 15, 2012

    L

    Written by a murderer that got away with it because of celebrities screaming for his release. Sad thing is he will probably kill again. I pity his next victim.

    4 out of 38 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 22, 2012

    Best book I've read in a while!!

    Beautifully haunting, Echols captures each moment in a way only a true poet could. The truth about our justice system exposed, a life of poverty, and overcoming true obstacles in life really sums up "Life After Death". He is a true inspiration in this book. A must read!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 22, 2012

    Good not great

    This book was good but the title is Life after Death and it was more pre death and during death. I love reading biographies and I would say it's worth a peek.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 13, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    A Very Intense Book, Very Hard To Put Down

    I have followed this case for many years. From a rough unbringing, to being convicted of a crime he didn't commit, Damien managed to come through a horrendous ordeal with a positve attitude and not anger or bitterness which he would have every right to feel.He tells his life story in such a public way with honesty and candor. It's eloquently written and a must read for anyone who has followed the case or even just has a passing interest in learning more from someone who lived through it.

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 5, 2012

    Heartbreaking.......with a happy ending

    Please read this and be grateful that this good man is now free. I am proud to say that I went to school with Steve Braga, the incredibly brilliant and gifted attorney who freed this young man.

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 18, 2013

    Amazing book

    This book is amzing. Well written. The descriptions of his childhood homes made you feel like you were actually there with him. On the outside looking in. the way he described the winter seasons made me long for the winter. The whole story is an emotional roller coaster of anger, hate, devestation, lonliness, heartbreak, tradgedy and the glimmers of hope and the finally happiness. I highly reccommend this book to everyone.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 6, 2013

    There's no better way to get a sense of what these boys went thr

    There's no better way to get a sense of what these boys went through than to hear it straight from one of them. It's a nice mix of Damien's history (his life through the years) as well as his experiences in prison. He also includes journal entries leading up to his release. If you are unfamiliar with the case, it's probably not the first book you want to read on the subject as the author doesn't delve into specifics of the case (the only reason I don't give it 5 stars). I would suggest reading something like "Devil's Knot" to get the specifics of the case, the "evidence" against the WM3, and how they were convicted. Once you are familiar with the case, this is a wonderful follow-up. I think everyone should read about how these 3 boys became 3 more victims in a horrible crime. The author's risilience is inspiring. A compelling read that I tore through in about a day.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 13, 2013

    Very highly recommend!

    I knew I would like this book but I loved it. Damien is so articulate but writes with an economy of words. It was so sad but Damien told his story without whining about his lot in life.
    I have been a believer almost since day one. I lived in Memphis at the time of the murders and told everyone "these boys are innocent".
    I have recommended this book to everyone.
    My 91 year old mother is going to read it.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 5, 2012

    Wow

    I would love to meet Damien. What a story what a guy!

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 5, 2012

    Amazing!

    I am so moved by this man and his story. This is a must read! I would give it more stars if i could!

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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