Listening Length: 11 hours and 14 minutes
Version: Unabridged Audiobook
Publisher: Tantor Audio
Narrated by: Cassandra Campbell
Imagine doing something criminally dumb as an impetuous twenty-something, getting away with it and having it come back to haunt you just when you’ve got it all together?That’s what happened to Piper Kerman.
Piper was a young, adventurous college graduate who fell into a lesbian affair with a slightly older woman who was making her money in the drug trade. Piper quickly realized she was in over her head after Nora asks her to do a job. She does it but breaks it off with Nora soon after. Several years later she has fallen deeply in love with a great guy named Larry and has a respectable job. And that’s when the FBI come knocking.
The title, Orange is the New Black, makes it sound like some sort of chick lit novel which it isn’t. This is Piper’s firsthand account of her relatively short (a little over a year) stay in a minimum security prison. It was nothing at all what I was expecting when I picked up this audio. Basically it is clean (with some F-bombs thrown in) and trauma-free; there one almost scuffle and a little pee-pee episode but that’s about as graphic as it gets. Clearly I’ve watched too many scared straight documentaries and sleazy horror films because I was expecting something much rougher. She mentions a few things that were slightly disturbing but they always happen around her, never directly to her. Maybe she was just lucky or maybe she blocked out the ugly stuff? I’ll never know but do have to wonder. Though Piper’s freedom is gone, she never seems in real danger and is almost always surrounded by friendly, nice people who help each other out. The food and surroundings are less than ideal but she gets in killer shape, reads books, has loads of visitors and learns some handyman skills. Not too shabby, if it’s all true.
There are a lot of people that come in and out of Piper’s life during her stay and I would've liked to get to know at least a few of them on a deeper level (especially Delicious) but instead Piper focuses more on the details and drudgery of her day to day life inside the prison and her minor epiphanies and thoughts. But what the hell, it is her book. It wasn't boring; don’t get me wrong, it just could have been so much better. I never felt an emotional connection to Piper or the many women in the story which is a shame. She mentions time and again how easy she has it on the outside compared to these women (and she does) and I had to wonder how she was able to fit in so seamlessly. Almost everyone seemed to like her and it didn’t seem realistic that she wouldn’t have more of a struggle considering the culture/personality clash.
I did like the fact that Piper wasn't a “poor me” type. If she had been this book would've been a DNF early on. But she knows she screwed up and that it’s no one’s fault but her own. She has to pay the consequences leaving behind her supportive family, friends and fiance and doesn't whine about her situation; instead she makes the best of it and takes notes of many of the injustices inside the prison system.
Narrator Cassandra Campbell reads capably. I liked the sound of her voice which was soothing and likable as Piper and many of the other young women but when she’s voicing some of the gruffer and/or older folks, or those with accents, she doesn't always fully succeed. Many of them sound too young or too sweet and not at all like the rough and tumble people many of them surely were. But I can live with that because mainly this is Piper’s story.
If you’re at all interested in life inside a minimum security prison you should check this out. The routines, the character interaction and the complex relationships that develop inside the prison were fascinating and parts of it were even funny. I only wish Piper (or perhaps a co-author) had been able to imbue her recollection with the emotion that would have made it memorable.