With Love From The Inside is Angela Pisel’s debut novel, and it is in one word, outstanding. The novel chronicles the final days of Grace Bradshaw’s life. Convicted of murdering her infant son she has spent seventeen years in prison and is awaiting execution on Death Row in a South Carolina detention center. When Grace receives her execution date, February 15 at 12:01 a.m., she knows that all she wants in her final days is to get in touch with her daughter Sophie, who she hasn’t seen in eleven long years. She becomes increasingly for her daughter to know the truth of what really happened.
Pisel weaves Grace’s story with Sophie’s, who is now married to a doctor and has done everything she can to conceal her past. No one knows, not even her husband, that her mother is alive and in prison, convicted of killing her baby brother. But the past nags at Sophie, and when she receives a letter from her mother’s attorney asking for her help, Sophie realizes that her mother is out of time, and launches an investigation in an attempt to save her mother from execution.
In the novel, Pisel artfully uses flashback sequences through a journal that Grace keeps in prison, which she intends to leave for Sophie after her death. In the journal, Grace also writes letters to her daughter, hoping that one day when Sophie reads them, she will realize that Grace has never stopped thinking of her or of her destroyed family, while earnestly maintaining her claims that she is innocent.
Pisel’s narrative is not only engaging, but also succeeds in sparking empathy towards both Grace and Sophie, who have lived their own separate nightmares all these years. Pisel is also skilled at describing Grace’s experience on Death Row and the humiliating and sometimes cruel daily routines that are part of her everyday life.
Her life consists of the tiny cell in which she lives, with only her journal and her bible for comfort, and giving the other female inmates haircuts as a way to feel useful while the minutes, hours, and days crawl by inexorably leading to her final day. The novel becomes a race for time as Sophie, now determined to prove her mother’s innocence, tries by all the means at her disposal to gather new evidence to help her mother’s case but fearful that it may already be too late.
With Love From The Inside is not for the faint of heart. Angela Pisel mercilessly tugs at the heartstrings with this story, while shocking revelations lead to a rather startling and unexpected ending.
Author’s note: This review was based on an advanced reader’s copy (ARC) provided by Netgalley and the publisher.