In the Sanctuary of Outcasts

White, Neil. In the Sanctuary of Outcasts: a Memoir. New York: William Morrow, 2009.

Reason read: I was supposed to receive this as an Early Review for LibraryThing back in 2009. It never arrived. Out of curiosity I decided to borrow it from a library and review it. I think there was a part of me that was feeling guilty for the reading’s equivalent of a runner’s DNS (Did Not Start).

I have to admit now that I have read In the Sanctuary of Outcasts I can officially say I am bummed I didn’t receive this as an Early Review back in 2009. This would have been one of my favorites. Not just one of my favorites, but one of my all-time favorites, for sure.

Confessional: I sometimes skip the author’s note. I’ll admit it – I’m impatient to get to the heart of the story. Sometimes, if I particularly loved what an author had to say I will go back and read the author’s note afterwards. But not always. In this case, for some reason I read every word of In the Sanctuary of Outcasts. I started with the copyright page and I think that’s what convinced me to spend time with every word White wanted to utter.

Leprosarium. Never heard the word before. Doubt I’ll hear it again. They’ve been trying to call it Hansen’s disease. Who know there was a place on the Mississippi River called Carville, a place under one roof for Hansen’s disease patients and prison inmates? Neil White certainly hadn’t when he entered the community of Carville on May 3rd, 1993 as a convicted felon. He left behind a wife and two small children to serve eighteen months for check kiting. There is humor to White’s arrival. His initial observations of Carville are as touching as they are naive. But, the longer he stays within the walls of Carville the more he understands the people around him. They leave a lasting impression and dare I say, change his life.

Quotes that got me, “The last thing I wanted to discuss on my first day of prison was erectile dysfunction” (p 15), and “She stood fearless in the face of change and approached her own life as if it were a thrill ride” (p 174).

Book trivia: the photograph of the aging oak trees took my breath away.

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