“Book Review: The Prison Within”
Reviewed by Jaylynn Korrell
An inspiring story about the journey to redemption
If you’re looking for a memoir that gives it to you straight, look no further than The Prison Within. Don Cummins’s story is chock full of highs and lows that you may not expect to relate to, but most likely will. In this book, he reminds us that it’s not always the walls that surround you that keep you from freedom.
As the product of two parents who also struggled with drugs, Cummins begins using at a young age and committing numerous crimes. Weaving his way in and out of schools, detention centers, and eventually jail, trouble becomes a way of life for him for decades. After spending over 15 years in prison, he discovers new difficulties on the outside, facing all of his demons with nothing stopping him from indulgence.
With the weight of his loving family, a potential love interest, and some really amazing friends, Cummins is faced with the decision to change his ways time and time again. As he builds his life from the ground up, you’ll see how far determination can bring someone.
Cummins is a writer who isn’t afraid to lay it all out there. Readers will understand that quickly. He even outlines his past as a homeless, bank-robbing drug addict just in the introduction. Though it’s a lot to take in initially, it’s the perfect set-up; he begins to expertly deconstruct the ideas that society has of people who have pasts as colorful as his. With compassion and sensitivity, toward both himself and the people around him, he brings us into his past and all that brought him out of it.
Cummins keeps that same lay-it-all-out-there energy throughout the book. He remains unafraid to call himself out for his transgressions and gives readers a complete look at his pitfalls. These pitfalls are so well-narrated, including the time when he’s walking in and out of traffic—convinced he’s being chased by gun wielding bad guys after taking a few too many drugs—only to find out that no one is in fact chasing him. Or the numerous times he holes himself up in a hotel room, convinced that the FBI is waiting outside his door. At one point, he even calls 911 on himself, in search of help from these invisible villains. His brutal honesty is just one of the many reasons why this book comes out victorious.
Through his recovery story, Cummins is an inspiration. Cummins strays from the standard “a-ha” moment and narrates the work along with the many failures and relapses that come with a happy ending. Each story, in all its sadness, is a brick laid on his slowly paved path to recovery. His compelling story, paired with his witty and smart writing style, makes The Prison Within an easy and enjoyable read.
Paperback: 328 pages
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