Penitentiary Tales

A Love Story

Fiction - Literary
362 Pages
Reviewed on 11/15/2019
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Vincent Dublado for Readers' Favorite

At the crux of this tale of incarceration is a cross-examination of social inequalities in race and gender. Penitentiary Tales: A Love Story by EA Luetkemeyer presents Dean Davis, an educated white male doing time for dealing marijuana. In an ethnically diverse penitentiary, Dean discovers that prison may well be hell on earth, as he has to watch his back for gangs, extortion, and harassment. How a highly literate convict manages to survive makes for a brilliant depiction of how the human spirit can triumph under the most adverse conditions. Dean has made enemies, but also made friendships. Along the way, he has touched lives. In return, he learns fortitude.

This book raises a high note in depicting imprisonment as a vital organizing principle in stirring an in-depth assessment of the naked realities of oppression and marginalization. Luetkemeyer continues that tradition of using prison literature as an important and influential literary sphere. The chapters in Penitentiary Tales discuss not only explicit expositions that delve into the dark side of human behavior but also the pervasive maneuvers of how prisoners, in their oppressed and unheard voices, appropriate prison as an extension of their turf and establish their dominance. Against this backdrop, Luetkemeyer remains optimistic, with a Pandora’s Box style ending wherein hope is not lost for his main protagonist, and that love can spring forth in the cruelest environment if we give it a chance. He may have chosen to write about prison life in the hopes of creating a significant impact in a setting that hardens criminals but softens our hearts to miracles.

K.C. Finn

Penitentiary Tales: A Love Story is a work of literary fiction focused on character, culture, and race, and was penned by author E A Luetkemeyer. The work contains graphic depictions of violence, sex, and distressing situations, and contains explicit language appropriate to its context. As the title suggests, the novel is set in an Illinois prison with a racially diverse background, filled with inmates from the difficult and dangerous streets of Chicago. Into this world walks Dean Davis, a well educated young man, originally from an affluent neighborhood in California. As Dean meets and mingles with his fellow inmates, cultures, class, and new occurrences wait around every corner, for good or ill.

Author E A Luetkemeyer presents an intriguing and committed character study which effectively explores the social and political consciousness of the current class and racial divides in modern-day America. The story of Dean Davis begins with a sharp shock, and the twists keep on coming as he learns more and more about the criminal world he has been moved into, and the realities of how the system treats its inmates. The narrative is nuanced and personal, exploring issues such as oppression of the marginalized communities without explicitly needing to say so, and the scenes we move through with Dean garner many additional questions and stick in the mind and the social conscience of the reader long after the scene is through. Overall, Penitentiary Tales: A Love Story is a well written and poignant dramatic novel which comes highly recommended.

Rabia Tanveer

Penitentiary Tales: A Love Story by EA Luetkemeyer is the story of a man who learned about life in the hardest way possible. Dean Davis is a white man in his thirties, who came from an affluent family and had his life under control. However, when he is sentenced to prison in Illinois, he knows that from here onwards, his life is going to be very hard. He knows that he will now have to fight every day of his sentence to just survive. Surprised to find himself in a community of different races, he realizes that life in prison is not exactly how he envisioned it to be. His time in jail is more like an awakening for him. What will Dean do now? Can he survive long enough to make it out? Even if he makes it out, what will his life be like?

This is a collection of four books that takes the reader on a journey along with Dean. I enjoyed how the author set the tone of each book according to what was happening in Dean’s life. EA Luetkemeyer did an amazing job at writing an impactful story. The author ensured that the reader could experience what Dean was going through. The narrative was descriptive, which allowed me to just immerse myself in the story and forget everything else. Dean’s growth and development was impressively done, and even his dialogues show the change in his personality. Each book was short, but it was packed with emotions, drama and the struggle of a man who was trying to do his best, regardless of what the situation was like. Very well-written and developed! I thoroughly enjoyed it.