Life After Death

Photo: Philip Friedman/Studio D

4 of 17
Life After Death
416 pages; Blue Rider Press
You may remember Damien Echols as one of the "West Memphis Three." He and two friends served 18 years in prison for the murder of three young boys before being released in 2011 after DNA evidence supported their claims of innocence. Echols's memoir, Life After Death, isn't only a story of justice delayed; it's also a tale of romance, resilience, and the power of the written word. While on death row, Echols was served unwashed, insect-infested vegetables, beaten by prison guards, and thrown into solitary confinement. Eventually he discovered he could retreat "into the world of the mind." He devoured thousands of books in prison, including texts on Judaism, Christianity, and Buddhism. He also found comfort in mail from supporters, including Lorri Davis, a New York-based architect who wrote to him after seeing a documentary about his case. Their letters led to visits, then marriage. Davis became his fiercest advocate, working to keep public attention focused on the case. Echols, who was 36 when he left prison, writes about his wife with a kind of awe. "I would go through everything I've been through again if I knew that's what it would take for Lorri to find me. She found me when I was drowning and breathed life into me."
— Stephanie Palumbo