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This Is Not My Life: A Memoir of Love, Prison, and Other Complications

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From the Governor General’s Award winning author of Forms of Devotion, Our Lady of the Lost and Found and By the Book “Never once in my life had I dreamed of being in bed with a convicted killer.” For almost six turbulent years, award-winning writer Diane Schoemperlen was involved with a prison inmate serving a life sentence for second-degree murder. The relationship surpris From the Governor General’s Award winning author of Forms of Devotion, Our Lady of the Lost and Found and By the Book “Never once in my life had I dreamed of being in bed with a convicted killer.” For almost six turbulent years, award-winning writer Diane Schoemperlen was involved with a prison inmate serving a life sentence for second-degree murder. The relationship surprised no one more than her. How do you fall in love with a man with a violent past? How do you date someone who is in prison? This Is Not My Life is the story of the romance between Diane and Shane—how they met and fell in love, how they navigated passes and parole and the obstacles facing a long-term prisoner attempting to return to society, and how, eventually, things fell apart. While no relationship takes place in a vacuum, this is never more true than when that relationship is with a federal inmate. In this candid, often wry, sometimes disturbing memoir, Schoemperlen takes us inside this complex and difficult relationship as she journeys through the prison system with Shane. Not only did this relationship enlarge her capacity for both empathy and compassion, but it also forced her to more deeply examine herself.


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From the Governor General’s Award winning author of Forms of Devotion, Our Lady of the Lost and Found and By the Book “Never once in my life had I dreamed of being in bed with a convicted killer.” For almost six turbulent years, award-winning writer Diane Schoemperlen was involved with a prison inmate serving a life sentence for second-degree murder. The relationship surpris From the Governor General’s Award winning author of Forms of Devotion, Our Lady of the Lost and Found and By the Book “Never once in my life had I dreamed of being in bed with a convicted killer.” For almost six turbulent years, award-winning writer Diane Schoemperlen was involved with a prison inmate serving a life sentence for second-degree murder. The relationship surprised no one more than her. How do you fall in love with a man with a violent past? How do you date someone who is in prison? This Is Not My Life is the story of the romance between Diane and Shane—how they met and fell in love, how they navigated passes and parole and the obstacles facing a long-term prisoner attempting to return to society, and how, eventually, things fell apart. While no relationship takes place in a vacuum, this is never more true than when that relationship is with a federal inmate. In this candid, often wry, sometimes disturbing memoir, Schoemperlen takes us inside this complex and difficult relationship as she journeys through the prison system with Shane. Not only did this relationship enlarge her capacity for both empathy and compassion, but it also forced her to more deeply examine herself.

30 review for This Is Not My Life: A Memoir of Love, Prison, and Other Complications

  1. 5 out of 5

    DeB MaRtEnS

    Many individuals have experienced complicated lives, out of a consequence of fractured childhoods with coping skills learned not quite being effective tools in adulthood. Relationships carry fault lines, when trust is tested and broken and the resulting shifts can reproduce a sense of those earliest instabilities. Sometimes, in these complicated lives, the need to heal "the other", fulfill wants - "to put right" - is a replay of a childhood story attempt for redemption, where none should have ev Many individuals have experienced complicated lives, out of a consequence of fractured childhoods with coping skills learned not quite being effective tools in adulthood. Relationships carry fault lines, when trust is tested and broken and the resulting shifts can reproduce a sense of those earliest instabilities. Sometimes, in these complicated lives, the need to heal "the other", fulfill wants - "to put right" - is a replay of a childhood story attempt for redemption, where none should have ever have been required of the child - but the adult is compelled,even as the actions trample their own personal boundaries and later, have themselves saying, "This is not my life!" Such was the case of Diane Schoemperlen, award-winning Canadian author, who writes about trying to make sense of the six years in her life when she was involved with a prison inmate. Innocently volunteering at a local soup kitchen, at a period in her life when she had hit a writer's slump and felt psychologically flat, she first met Shane who was coming to work there as well, on an temporary escorted pass from prison. The memoir is riveting, at times mentally causing me to think, "Give your head a shake, Diane.", only to read on and note that she shook her figurative head, pen and inner self often upon sharing the raw details of what became an enmeshed relationship. This Is Not My Life is also an inside look into Canada's prison system, the radical changes effected by Stephen Harper's budget cuts which undermine the difficult process of rehabilitation, Canada's sentencing system versus that of the USA and the developmental stunting, known as "institutionalized behaviour", which occurs among long term convicts. I appreciate Diane Schoemperlen's candor. I found myself nodding, often, relating to her insight. She opened the door to introduce us to her "inner loser", which took immense courage; I assume that most of those who have one of those Inner Losers prefers to keep them well hidden, and dress up Outer Okay for the public. On the crest of a crisis, she sought professional and safe help, which is a terrific example for anyone trying to make sense of the crazy times. "Time has passed. Things have happened. More time will pass. More things will happen. I have become myself again, but I am not the same. Perhaps that is a good thing... This is my life and I'm going to live it." Five stars

  2. 5 out of 5

    Krista

    It is safe to say that never once in my life had I dreamed of being in bed with a convicted killer, let alone one with his teeth in a margarine container in the kitchen, his mother in the next room, and the word HI! tattooed in tiny blue letters on his penis. Near the end of 2005 – in a funk on the heels of a tough breakup that had led to persistent writer's block – award-winning Canadian author Diane Schoemperlen took the advice of a friend and began volunteering at a hot lunch program as a It is safe to say that never once in my life had I dreamed of being in bed with a convicted killer, let alone one with his teeth in a margarine container in the kitchen, his mother in the next room, and the word HI! tattooed in tiny blue letters on his penis. Near the end of 2005 – in a funk on the heels of a tough breakup that had led to persistent writer's block – award-winning Canadian author Diane Schoemperlen took the advice of a friend and began volunteering at a hot lunch program as a distraction. Three months later, “Shane” arrived as a dishwasher, and with open minds and hearts, Schoemperlen and the other volunteers befriended the man whom they knew to be a local prisoner on an escorted day pass. Within months, Shane was declaring that Schoemperlen was the woman for him, and by the end of a year, she decided to give sway to her heart and start a romantic relationship with him. This relationship would last (on and off) for six years, and in the fascinating book This Is Not My Life, Schoemperlen outlines the good and the bad, laying bare her own psyche and the frustrations of dealing with the Canadian Penal System. As an author, an educator, a single mother, you know that Schoemperlen is neither weak nor dim, and she pulls no punches while outlining what in her own history might have made her deaf to the clanging alarm bells (that even most of her friends could recognise) as this romance began to blossom. Within a year of “dating” – and in no small part due to Schoemperlen's own efforts – Shane received full parole and moved into her home. After thirty years in prison, Shane had no skills for living in the community – making this period of living together tense and unhappy – and after just 49 days, he moved out. Within two more months, Shane had broken the conditions of his parole and was sent back to a higher security-level prison. Schoemperlen decided she was done with him, spent a year in counselling to get over the breakup, and eventually decided to give the relationship another chance; a much less satisfying experience now that Shane no longer enjoyed day or weekend passes and Schoemperlen was obliged to suffer the indignities of tighter security around in-prison visits. As Shane once again devolved into a jealous and manipulative, yet not actually present, partner, Schoemperlen had an epiphany that led to their final breakup: That night I finally understood that I was in love with the story of my relationship with Shane. That the story – oh the story – was so beautiful, tender, and romantic. But the reality was not any of those things. The reality was only abusive, destructive, and unbearable...That night I understood that for all those years, I'd been in love with the story – not the reality – of my life joined to Shane's. The story of myself as the one who could lead him out of the darkness, the one who could make him whole, healthy, happy. The story of myself as the one who could save him. This Is Not My Life is consistently thoughtful and engaging; Schoemperlen is open and reflective. She is definitely not one of those women who glamourises violence – she didn't seek this out like those confused souls who would send proposals of marriage to Ted Bundy or Richard Ramirez – but this isn't exactly a “it could happen to anyone” story: unlike Schoemperlen, I would never have been attracted to the tough guy with the homemade tattoos covering his body (including up his neck and a teardrop by his eye); and when Shane eventually detailed what had landed him a life sentence – the bludgeoning of a man with a hammer (followed by strangulation by electrical cord to be good and certain he was dead) because the victim might have threatened an earlier parole – I would have been out of there; there is compassion and understanding for a fellow human being's past indiscretions, and there is recognising evil (and while Schoemperlen didn't exactly portray Shane as “evil”, he was a career criminal, and theirs was no fairy tale). I appreciated her portrayal of Shane as an example of the penal system's failure to prepare a convict for re-entry into society, and on many levels, this book is an informative expose of Canada's prisons and their lack of effective rehabilitation. On the other hand, it has a definite liberal slant including: Schoemperlen and Shane requiring two counselling sessions to deal with the election of a Conservative majority government in 2011; space given to the protest led by penal expert Margaret Atwood after the shuttering of prison farms; and an extra expression of thankfulness in the Acknowledgments section for the election of Justin Trudeau as the thirty-third prime minister of Canada who is destined to “bring Canada back to a more humane and effective criminal justice system based on research, evidence, the respect of human rights, and the true protection of public safety”. While I 100% agree that budget cuts that lead to overcrowding and understaffing are indefensible, after reading of Schoemperlen's frustrated dealings with the Kafkaesque Canadian prison system, it's hard for me to see the utility of more government programs; more layers of bureaucracy. And here's my last complaint: other than one passage in which Schoemperlen is disturbed to discover that a familiar inmate from the visiting room is a notorious local violent pedophile, there is very little space given to the victims of crime. I'm sure it was demeaning for Schoemperlen to suddenly be forced to submit to drug-detecting dogs at the minimum security prison (especially while believing, and stating, that it's likely the guards who are bringing in the drugs), but I'm not sorry that the inmates no longer referred to that prison as “camp”; Shane brutally murdered a man, and this man is never mentioned after Shane's first confession. When the news was released that the Kingston Penitentiary was to be closed – an aging structure noted as the oldest still-in-use prison in the world – Schoemperlen dreads the effect that news will have on local convicts: Not only was KP an integral part of the history and identity of the city of Kingston, but also of all the men, like Shane, who had ever been incarcerated there. It was a badge of honour, I think, for him and the other prisoners who could say they'd done time there and survived, had escaped the place, so to speak, with their lives. A part of each of them would be stripped away by this closure. This shuttering and its effect on the living and safety conditions for Canadian prisoners might well have been wrongfooted, but how it affected these convicts' self-image and nostalgia means nothing to me. And yet, while Schoemperlen and I might have different political leanings, I liked this book very much; I thought it was a really strong example of a memoir that uses a fascinating focal point of a few fraught years to expose the workings of an entire life. I liked Schoemperlen's incidental sharing of her career as a celebrated author (I found it interesting to learn how many events she goes to; I wish that her success meant that she was more comfortable financially). I thought it was well organised, well written, informative, and honest; I expect to see this title again at award season.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Lauren Davis

    I was asked to blurb this book and am delighted to do so: "With scalding candor, bravery, and a considerable amount of humor, Diane Schoemperlen has written a moving memoir about unexpected love. She reminds us what love is, and how even it if can’t always have a fairy tale ending, it nonetheless offers redemption.” I was asked to blurb this book and am delighted to do so: "With scalding candor, bravery, and a considerable amount of humor, Diane Schoemperlen has written a moving memoir about unexpected love. She reminds us what love is, and how even it if can’t always have a fairy tale ending, it nonetheless offers redemption.”

  4. 4 out of 5

    Audrey Ogilvie

    I thought this book was fascinating from many perspectives. The author was drawn to, and fell in love with, a man who was in prison for murder, albeit a crime that was committed years before she met him. There is not question that the love was real, deeply felt by both people, but the forest of what would turn out to be an fraught with problems is so clearly explained. It's impossible not to feel the searing pain of both people. Sharing this love story is the evidence of a Canadian judicial/pena I thought this book was fascinating from many perspectives. The author was drawn to, and fell in love with, a man who was in prison for murder, albeit a crime that was committed years before she met him. There is not question that the love was real, deeply felt by both people, but the forest of what would turn out to be an fraught with problems is so clearly explained. It's impossible not to feel the searing pain of both people. Sharing this love story is the evidence of a Canadian judicial/penal system gone awry. The former Prime Minister Stephen Harper, introduced and American-influenced Tough on Crime Bill that closed the prison farms that were not only immensely productive but were confidence builders for people who would eventually be out in the 'free world.' The story tugs at the heart and the mind simultaneously. I would highly recommend this book.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Chris Thomas

    This book was kind of like watching a train wreck. You can't believe she is doing what she is and once she is free of him she goes back for more. It does seem like figures out why she is compelled to embark on this relationship by the end of the book. This book was kind of like watching a train wreck. You can't believe she is doing what she is and once she is free of him she goes back for more. It does seem like figures out why she is compelled to embark on this relationship by the end of the book.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    A very honest and readable memoir. While it's hard to understand why Diane maintained her relationship with Shane for five years, it was just as hard for her to understand why. She's completely open about that fact. Her journey to understanding and finding the strength to break away is a compelling one. The book includes great insight into the Canadian prison and parole system as well. A very honest and readable memoir. While it's hard to understand why Diane maintained her relationship with Shane for five years, it was just as hard for her to understand why. She's completely open about that fact. Her journey to understanding and finding the strength to break away is a compelling one. The book includes great insight into the Canadian prison and parole system as well.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Yvonne

    I really respect Diane's honesty in writing this, at times, excruciating work. This took self reflection, understanding, and courage. I too have been in relationships that were profoundly bad for me, and it's hard to look them square in the eye and admit my role in them. And it's hard to admit wanting to continue in those relationships when to those looking in on you, it's clearly a monumental disaster. So kudos to you Diane. As many reviewers have noted, the observations and realities of Correcti I really respect Diane's honesty in writing this, at times, excruciating work. This took self reflection, understanding, and courage. I too have been in relationships that were profoundly bad for me, and it's hard to look them square in the eye and admit my role in them. And it's hard to admit wanting to continue in those relationships when to those looking in on you, it's clearly a monumental disaster. So kudos to you Diane. As many reviewers have noted, the observations and realities of Corrections Canada, their rules and their inconsistencies are a real eye opener for those of us who had no idea. Diane is right to capture all of these sometimes bizarre and degrading policies into her book to shed light on some of the outright meanness. I think my 'but' is coming around the writing. I never felt the 'love' part of this story. I felt Diane's neediness, and his desire for control, but why she actually fell in love with Shane is not convincing to me. There was so little in it for Diane, any of Shane's lovable, loving qualities just didn't come through for me. And in all honesty a lot of this story was boring. However, it doesn't matter what I think about that. I am glad I read the book, but it didn't live up to the expectations I had for it based on the excitement of others who told me about it. Never have expectations is a motto I usually adhere to, and I should have adhered to it when reading this book.

  8. 4 out of 5

    James Fisher

    This is Not My Life is one of the best books I have read this year. It was one of those books that you begrudgingly put down (sleep, life and work must go on!) and couldn't wait to pick it up again. Ms. Schoemperlen could have created a masterful work of fiction out of her experience, but she chose to candidly write this as a memoir and it is due to this choice that the book's emotional impact really comes to the fore. I had to keep reminding myself that what I was holding was not a novel, but a This is Not My Life is one of the best books I have read this year. It was one of those books that you begrudgingly put down (sleep, life and work must go on!) and couldn't wait to pick it up again. Ms. Schoemperlen could have created a masterful work of fiction out of her experience, but she chose to candidly write this as a memoir and it is due to this choice that the book's emotional impact really comes to the fore. I had to keep reminding myself that what I was holding was not a novel, but a true story! I'm sure that this book will be shortlisted and win numerous awards. It will definitely appeal to anyone who has ever been in a relationship that turned toxic, as well as those inquisitive about life behind those cement walls and chain link fences of a federal institution. This is Not My Life is full of various personal and private conflicts, laughs and tears, moments of bliss and times of daunting reality. Highly recommended. You can view my full review here at the Miramichi Reader: http://wp.me/p60sTD-Cq

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    I really enjoyed parts of this! This book is a memoir about a woman who falls in love with a man convicted of second-degree murder. The parts of this book that focused on CSC, tough on crime approaches, & institutionalization were really interesting. I cared a bit less about their actual relationship and I felt parts of this book could have been cut, but it was so interesting to see things im learning in class be applicable in real life as well.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Marci -

    Diane, as always.... stupendous! I have been in many of the same situations as you I was thinking while I read this. We as humans are fallable, make mistakes thinking we know how it will or not end. But at the end of it all we fool ourselves into thinking differently. Thank you for sharing your story and I look forward to hearing more.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Candice

    I have always been fascinated by women who hooked up with prisoners: what were they like and was the attraction just MAJOR bad boy, or what? I must admit, even though I have no psychological profile in my mind of these women, Diane Scheomperlen would have been one of the last people I figured to get involved with a murderer. But in her usual honest personal - I wouldn't call it confessional style, but she lays her cards on the table and what's happening to her intellectually and emotionally, as I have always been fascinated by women who hooked up with prisoners: what were they like and was the attraction just MAJOR bad boy, or what? I must admit, even though I have no psychological profile in my mind of these women, Diane Scheomperlen would have been one of the last people I figured to get involved with a murderer. But in her usual honest personal - I wouldn't call it confessional style, but she lays her cards on the table and what's happening to her intellectually and emotionally, as life experience to her is a teacher. She met Shane, the felon, while they were doing volunteer work in a religious organization and were friendly and then it grew into a relationship. She carries us through the development of this and the convoluted Canadian prison system like a reporter- by that I mean being as factual and clear as she can. "Rosemary and Valerie helped me understand that prison is not a good place to grow up and mature, that long-term prisoners get stuck emotionally and psychologically at the age they were when they went in. They do not experience the same life events and challenges that help the rest of us grow and develop into mature adults. The challenges of prolonged incarceration are entirely different but no less transformative...deprivation of liberty, goods and services, heterosexual relationships, autonomy and security. Adapting over time to these pains of imprisonment, the prisoner develops habits of thought and behaviour that become chronic and deeply internalized. While these defensive techniques may ensure his survival inside, they are entirely dysfunctional out there in the free world." Diane eventually comes to realize internal workings of her own psyche and ultimately that she can't change the man, a persistent mindset of many of us still, and all the healthy possibilities and love she could offer cannot be utilized much less recognized by this unfortunate man.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Christina McLain

    This is a memoir focusing on the years the author,a celebrated Canadian writer, spent loving a convicted killer named Shane. It is also a rather bemused indictment of the Canadian penal system which while it doesn't incarcerate people as easily as the American system does, has some strange quirks and questionable rules. For example, Schoemperlen details how the prison authorities went to great lengths screening visitors for drugs, using body searches, dogs and ion scanners to detect even the sli This is a memoir focusing on the years the author,a celebrated Canadian writer, spent loving a convicted killer named Shane. It is also a rather bemused indictment of the Canadian penal system which while it doesn't incarcerate people as easily as the American system does, has some strange quirks and questionable rules. For example, Schoemperlen details how the prison authorities went to great lengths screening visitors for drugs, using body searches, dogs and ion scanners to detect even the slightest trace of banned substances but allowed violent convicts in difficult relationships to have conjugal visits in a trailer filled with objects like sharp knives in the kitchens. But on the whole this story deals with the limits of love and how people, especially women, often get sucked into bad relationships because of low self-esteem and the belief in the power of unconditional love.Today we are often told how special we all are and how we can do anything if we just put our minds to it, so I suppose the belief that love can make everything better makes sense. But in reality, as the author discovers, some people are just too damaged to be saved without a miracle or more likely a therapist and the only thing you can do is love them..and leave them. Worth reading.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    Tough book. I love Schoemperlen .. her "Lady of the Lost and Found" is one of my absolute favourite books. Was super-excited to read this memoir. It is beautifully written. I found it difficult to read, but it is always difficult for me to read about unhealthy relationships. I admire and am a bit in awe of how brutally honest Schoemperlen is about her relationship with Shane - and how she can write so clearly about the problematic issues in the relationship, but still make me feel, with absolute Tough book. I love Schoemperlen .. her "Lady of the Lost and Found" is one of my absolute favourite books. Was super-excited to read this memoir. It is beautifully written. I found it difficult to read, but it is always difficult for me to read about unhealthy relationships. I admire and am a bit in awe of how brutally honest Schoemperlen is about her relationship with Shane - and how she can write so clearly about the problematic issues in the relationship, but still make me feel, with absolute clarity, all the positive reasons she got into the relationship. Also, the look into the Canadian prison system is fascinating. If you are a fan of Schoemperlen, definitely read - her clear, evocative writing style shines through.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jenny Manzer

    Diane Schoemperlen is such a wonderful writer. I was glued to the first three quarters of this book. I was fascinated by the details of the prison system (and, more accurately, the people who love convicted criminals) and also in finding out more about Schoemperlen, a writer whose short stories I have long admired. My interest in the details of the prison system and her relationship with Shane was not quite as high at the very end as the relationship waxed and waned and cycles repeated. (But thi Diane Schoemperlen is such a wonderful writer. I was glued to the first three quarters of this book. I was fascinated by the details of the prison system (and, more accurately, the people who love convicted criminals) and also in finding out more about Schoemperlen, a writer whose short stories I have long admired. My interest in the details of the prison system and her relationship with Shane was not quite as high at the very end as the relationship waxed and waned and cycles repeated. (But this is memoir. That's how it goes.) An interesting and brave memoir by one of Canada's best.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jakky

    I started reading this memoir and abandoned it about 1/3 into it. It really bothered me... after many, many months (if not a year), I went back to it. There is so much to be annoyed by... and to be judgmental about... and to critique. Eventually, I began to appreciate the talented, evocative writing, the author’s ability to self-analyze and her extreme honesty in doing so. I started to admire her very dry, self-effacing humour and clever wit. I suppose any book that elicits that much reaction is I started reading this memoir and abandoned it about 1/3 into it. It really bothered me... after many, many months (if not a year), I went back to it. There is so much to be annoyed by... and to be judgmental about... and to critique. Eventually, I began to appreciate the talented, evocative writing, the author’s ability to self-analyze and her extreme honesty in doing so. I started to admire her very dry, self-effacing humour and clever wit. I suppose any book that elicits that much reaction is a worthwhile read. In the end, I do recommend it.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Sherry

    I enjoyed this book. The first half was very interesting - how she became involved - how things fell apart, etc. For me the second part where she gets back with him - was not quite as compelling and I did find the end a bit abrupt. But perhaps that is how it all played out.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Teena in Toronto

    In 2006, Diane met Shane when she began volunteering at a hot-meal program in Kingston. Shane was on an escorted temporary absence from a minimum-security prison ... he was serving a life sentence for second-degree murder. Within a few months, she and Shane, both in their 50s, became friends. A year later, they were in love and in a relationship. Shane was eventually paroled and moves in the Diane. He was extremely needy and manipulative and totally disrupted her live. She makes her living as a w In 2006, Diane met Shane when she began volunteering at a hot-meal program in Kingston. Shane was on an escorted temporary absence from a minimum-security prison ... he was serving a life sentence for second-degree murder. Within a few months, she and Shane, both in their 50s, became friends. A year later, they were in love and in a relationship. Shane was eventually paroled and moves in the Diane. He was extremely needy and manipulative and totally disrupted her live. She makes her living as a writer and he was constantly calling her and giving her the space she needed. He was mean and nasty and didn't treat her very well at all. Forty-nine days later, he moved out, they broke up and Shane eventually ended up back in prison. Within a year, though Shane was still in prison, they were back together. She felt that they didn't have the support they needed for their relationship to succeed and this time they did. But the relationship failed again and they broke up, this time for good. For Shane, it seemed to be all about him. He'd spent 30 years in prison and didn't know how to act in the real world and wasn't willing to change and adapt. Diane put up with a lot, not wanting to give up on the relationship or Shane. She saw a lot of good in Shane and they had some good times but it seemed like the bad times outweighed them. I found this to be an interesting story. Not only did it give insight on Diane and Shane's relationship but also on the Canadian prison system and what's it's like to date an inmate. I liked the writing style. As a head's up, there is swearing and adult activity. Blog review post: http://www.teenaintoronto.com/2016/07...

  18. 5 out of 5

    Krista Matthews

    I cringed throughout this book, it felt like Diane wanted to be the savior for Shane. From the very beginning when she was volunteering with the vulnerable to how she treated Shane, she projected this air of "look at me being in the presence of you people" trying to portray the image of relating to them more than her well to do friends but in reality she wanted the kudos for being there and she also wanted the kudos for being willing to lower herself to dating an inmate. When Shane said that she I cringed throughout this book, it felt like Diane wanted to be the savior for Shane. From the very beginning when she was volunteering with the vulnerable to how she treated Shane, she projected this air of "look at me being in the presence of you people" trying to portray the image of relating to them more than her well to do friends but in reality she wanted the kudos for being there and she also wanted the kudos for being willing to lower herself to dating an inmate. When Shane said that she just wanted a "Prison Pet" I could totally understand why he said that. Sure Shane may have some narcissistic tendencies, but Diane played the martyr very well. When Diane went to his parole hearing after they broke up (which was absolutely ridiculous by the way) and wondered why no one was looking at her, I yelled at the book "THIS ISN'T ABOUT YOU!" and that wasn't the first or only time that I had thought or said that in the book. I had hoped that through out this experience that she would have maybe humbled a bit - but that doesn't appear to be so. I absolutely don't recommend this book and I wish I had stopped reading it in the beginning when I was disgusted but her ego and her savior mentality. The positive thing about this book was that it was well written and easy to read.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Alexis

    This book was a complete page turner for me. Author Diane Schoemperlen falls in love with a federal inmate that she meets at a soup kitchen. The man is a second degree murderer who has been in prison for 30 years. She can see the good in him, and the two fall in love. But their relationship is complicated, and things become even worse when he is released from prison on parole and they try to live together. Schoemperlen has an expert sense of pacing and knows what to reveal and what not to reveal. This book was a complete page turner for me. Author Diane Schoemperlen falls in love with a federal inmate that she meets at a soup kitchen. The man is a second degree murderer who has been in prison for 30 years. She can see the good in him, and the two fall in love. But their relationship is complicated, and things become even worse when he is released from prison on parole and they try to live together. Schoemperlen has an expert sense of pacing and knows what to reveal and what not to reveal. The book delves into human relationships and some of the problems with Canada's prison system. I found this a compelling read and gasped out loud several times while reading this book. Highly recommended. (I would have liked a glossary of prison acronyms and a bit more psychoanalysis, but that's just me- because I am the daughter of two social workers who tends to get a little too much into that sort of thing.)

  20. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    a highly engrossing book. I admire the author for sharing this painfully personal tale. i appreciated learning about the injustices & absurdities of Canada's prison system & seeing these humanized. the author's rendering of her state of mind & heart is what moved me the most. I felt a kindred sensibility. I never felt pity. I understood completely what she was going through & why. I loved Our Lady of the Lost and Found & had promised myself to read more from this gifted author. I know this book a highly engrossing book. I admire the author for sharing this painfully personal tale. i appreciated learning about the injustices & absurdities of Canada's prison system & seeing these humanized. the author's rendering of her state of mind & heart is what moved me the most. I felt a kindred sensibility. I never felt pity. I understood completely what she was going through & why. I loved Our Lady of the Lost and Found & had promised myself to read more from this gifted author. I know this book has a different style but I find the depth of understanding of human nature here & in Our Lady to be similar & admirable.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Louise

    A remarkable account of a woman’s 6 year love affair with a prison inmate convicted of murder. We cannot control who we fall in love with but I still fail to understand how an intelligent woman could stay with this man after their horrendous 49 days living together when he was out on parole. He showed her his true colors: a mean, self-centered, temper-tantrum-throwing, needy, jealous, manipulative, scary and unbalanced man yet she still goes back to him for another 4 years (although this time in A remarkable account of a woman’s 6 year love affair with a prison inmate convicted of murder. We cannot control who we fall in love with but I still fail to understand how an intelligent woman could stay with this man after their horrendous 49 days living together when he was out on parole. He showed her his true colors: a mean, self-centered, temper-tantrum-throwing, needy, jealous, manipulative, scary and unbalanced man yet she still goes back to him for another 4 years (although this time in the safety of his incarceration). It boggles my mind. Other than that, the book does a decent job of portraying how the Canadian penal system works (or rather fails to work).

  22. 5 out of 5

    Allison

    I've always been fascinated by the phenomenon of women falling in love with prisoners. This isn't one of the really baffling cases - where women claim to be in love with serial killers who they've only ever exchanged letters with - and actually when Schoemperlen describes her childhood and role models it's not all that surprising that she ends up in this relationship. Her assessment of it is fairly clear-eyed, although presumably it wasn't at the time, and the details about the Canadian criminal I've always been fascinated by the phenomenon of women falling in love with prisoners. This isn't one of the really baffling cases - where women claim to be in love with serial killers who they've only ever exchanged letters with - and actually when Schoemperlen describes her childhood and role models it's not all that surprising that she ends up in this relationship. Her assessment of it is fairly clear-eyed, although presumably it wasn't at the time, and the details about the Canadian criminal justice system and the Harper government were also illuminating. Engaging read.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    Fascinating story of a lady who falls in love with a convict while they both volunteered at St. Vincent DePaul. Hard to understand why she would put up with his verbal/emotional abuse, she being an intelligent woman, but sadly she did! "Never let loneliness lower your standards" is advice she should have heeded! Fascinating story of a lady who falls in love with a convict while they both volunteered at St. Vincent DePaul. Hard to understand why she would put up with his verbal/emotional abuse, she being an intelligent woman, but sadly she did! "Never let loneliness lower your standards" is advice she should have heeded!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Danielle

    I loved this book! Diane is an excellent storyteller. This is about her life after she met and fell in love with an inmate. She lives in Kingston Ontario, home of the infamous Kingston Pen. She wrote about Canadian stuff, like fried baloney, and she also mentioned esophageal cancer, which I had last year. This is such an interesting story. Read it!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Sheri Robinson

    The honesty of Diane's words and her struggles with the bureaucracy and love are unforgettable. For all those that lined up for tickets to Kingston Penitentiary, you will want to read this book. It gives the best and truest idea of life in prison and what it does to people on the inside and on the outside. If this book doesn't make Diane even more famous it will be a crime. The honesty of Diane's words and her struggles with the bureaucracy and love are unforgettable. For all those that lined up for tickets to Kingston Penitentiary, you will want to read this book. It gives the best and truest idea of life in prison and what it does to people on the inside and on the outside. If this book doesn't make Diane even more famous it will be a crime.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Penny

    Well respected award winning Canadian author inexplicably begins a self destructive relationship with a convict. Doesn't really understand it herself, and unfortunately couldn't make me understand it either. The story was interesting at first, but soon tried my patience. Well respected award winning Canadian author inexplicably begins a self destructive relationship with a convict. Doesn't really understand it herself, and unfortunately couldn't make me understand it either. The story was interesting at first, but soon tried my patience.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jane Mulkewich

    A brave book. An important book. Much to reflect on here, ranging from relationships in general, to how we institutionalize prisoners in our society. Highly recommended reading.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Nancy Runstedler

    I was originally going to give this 3.5 but have bumped it up to 4 for Schoemperlen's bravery and the importance of this book. Not my favourite of hers but definitely still worth the read. I was originally going to give this 3.5 but have bumped it up to 4 for Schoemperlen's bravery and the importance of this book. Not my favourite of hers but definitely still worth the read.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Ania

    A story about a woman's experience with falling in love and with the Ontario corrections system. If anything this story is interesting to understand how the system works or fails. A story about a woman's experience with falling in love and with the Ontario corrections system. If anything this story is interesting to understand how the system works or fails.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Suzanne

    I've been wanting to read this memoir for years, and I'm so glad I finally got around to it. I have always had difficulty relating to women who stay in bad relationships. I have always felt happier alone than in a relationship that isn't working. And, like most people, I've always been baffled by women who fall in love with men in prison for murder. I think I've come away from this memoir with more empathy and compassion for women like Diane Schoemperlen, who found herself in this situation when I've been wanting to read this memoir for years, and I'm so glad I finally got around to it. I have always had difficulty relating to women who stay in bad relationships. I have always felt happier alone than in a relationship that isn't working. And, like most people, I've always been baffled by women who fall in love with men in prison for murder. I think I've come away from this memoir with more empathy and compassion for women like Diane Schoemperlen, who found herself in this situation when she fell for a convicted murderer, Shane. Schoemperlen writes so beautifully, and with so much warmth and insight. I was heartbroken for her when she described her upbringing. Her parents never told her they loved her, never told her they were proud of her, and made her feel inadequate. She made some terrible decisions in her relationship with Shane and ignored red flag after red flag, but she was starting from such a difficult place that I only felt myself feeling sad for her. I will have to call my parents and thank them for being so loving and supportive and fantastic. Having taught college courses in criminal justice, I wasn't surprised to learn about conditions in Canadian prisons or about the folly of Stephen Harper's Tough on Crime policies. I have been inside maximum and minimum security prisons and was aware of a lot of the issues Schoemperlen addresses. Still, it was interesting to hear about her perspective as a visitor trying to maintain her life outside the system while being somehow a part of it at the same time. 4 stars.

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