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Couldn't Keep it to Myself [Hardcover]

Wally Lamb
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 354 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins (8 May 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 006053429X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060534295
  • Product Dimensions: 23.7 x 16 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 836,475 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Wally Lamb's first novel, 'She's Come Undone', won rave reviews when it was published in 1992. It was a finalist in the 'Los Angeles Times' First Novel Award, a Top Ten book for 'People' magazine and a Notable Book for the 'New York Times'. Both 'She's Come Undone' and 'I Know This Much Is True' have been chosen for Oprah's Book Club. Wally Lamb now teaches writing at the University of Connecticut. He lives in Connecticut with his wife and their three sons.

Product Description


A collection of heart-wrenching tales of abuse and violence from a writing class of women prisoners, edited by world-renowned no.1 New York Times bestselling author Wally Lamb. Wally Lamb's writing has been lauded around the world for its humanity and sensitivity to the plight of the outsider, the misunderstood figure who seeks hope and redemption. For the past several years, Lamb has devoted himself passionately to working with a group of incarcerated women at the York Correctional Institution. While at first the women distrusted Lamb, each other, and themselves, many of them began to slowly embrace the opportunity to join Lamb's writing class. Over time, they began to express themselves, and this book is the product of that journey into expression. Many of these women were imprisoned by their circumstances even before they came to York. Some women recount harrowing tales of chronic abuse and rejection by their families, their peers, and their societies. Brenda Medina joins a gang to fit in and to impress her volatile boyfriend, and violence soon ensues.

Nancy Birkla is arrested for drug trafficking just when she has begun the painful ascent toward sobriety and toward facing her demons. Other tales give glimpses into life in jail. Robin Cullen writes about the difficulty of celebrating Christmas in a maximum-security prison where no care packages are allowed. Bonnie Foreshaw tells of how much she misses the music and joy of family gatherings. She still has much more time to serve of her forty-five year sentence for an accidental killing. The reader learns why some women turned to brutal violence, how others were caught in no-win situations, and how many of the women embrace hope even in the depths of their despair and loneliness. Wally Lamb's powerful introduction describes the incredible process by which these women found their true voices, and how they challenged him as a teacher and as a fellow writer: "I have come to know my current students not merely as the substance abusers, gang members, thieves, and killers they have been, but also as the complex and creative works in progress they are." Couldn't Keep It to Myself is a book about the hope and heartache of that process of finding onself and striving for a better day.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars healing stories 21 Aug 2003
I ordered this book mainly out of curiosity: about life in a women's prison today, about the women themselves and how they arrived there. I was surprised to discover how similar their stories may be to ours, how many scars we may share. And I was impressed by Wally Lamb's program of writing as therapy -- enough to order some of his suggested reading and take up the journal again. This anthology was more than a look from the outside.
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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
I am a fan of Wally Lamb and I am forever checking to see if he has brought out another book. I didn't even take time to see what this book was about, just bought it instantly when it was on the Amazon website. Although I paid almost 20 for it, I don't regret a single penny, even if there is only a couple of pages actually penned by Mr Lamb himself.
I am just glad that Wally Lamb being associated with this book, introduced me to the stories of these women. It is not hard to see how some of the women end up in a correctional institution, but to hear how easily it is to fall on hard times and for those to become a downward spiral in your life is very scary. I am glad that once again I am more aware of suffering in this world thanks to Wally introducing it in such a wonderfully non-judgemental way. This time I have been introducted to the women of the institution, but previously to mental health among other issues in my person favourite 'I know this much is true'.
Thank you not only to the woman who have shared with us, but to Wally for making sure their stories are told.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspirational and deeply moving 30 Mar 2011
A book that is dripping in deep suffering and the understanding of this suffering; the stories are shocking, distressing and deplorably sad, they are laden with heart wrenching abuse of a diverse group of women, who happen to be prisoners. A book that should not be ignored; read it, but really read it, listen to these women and you'll understand who they are and also why they are who they are.

To me it speaks of the total ineptitude in today's society of addressing the issues of abuse (on all levels) and the link between this abuse and the future prison population. Furthermore, that in essence the individuals who find themselves imprisoned by the state continue to be punished by their abusers. Thank goodness people like Wally Lamb exist and choose to devote their time in helping to change the lives of these women, who have most often been the victims of deplorable crimes themselves, which have gone unpunished; whilst they, due to their painful memories and abusive existence cannot help but to walk upon a particular path of pain. Thankfully, through the art of creative writing these brave women have been able to transform their lives, either inside or outside of prison. The crimes that they committed of course cannot be denied, but the understanding of the origin of crime is surely the key to not only offering and receiving forgiveness, but in turn the true means to transform a person.

I cried with every one of these beautiful women's stories. I understand their pain and in their prose I have come to understand the root causes of suffering.
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5.0 out of 5 stars five stars again for Mr Lamb 3 Mar 2011
This book just goes to show what a compassionate, open-minded and humble approach Lamb has to the world of women.
The descriptions these women make of their lives have, at times, made me feel ashamed of all the times I have complained about my own "probelms".
It is not a sad book and it is a very fast read as it's divided into single short stories (none of them works of fiction).
I would definitely reccomend it.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.5 out of 5 stars  111 reviews
137 of 140 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You Will be Totally Caught Up in these Incredible Stories 26 Jan 2003
By ell-jae - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
As a reader interested in women's issues I expected to like this book, but I did not expect to be completely captivated and overcome by it, which is what actually happened. It is presented in such a compelling way you become absorbed by each inmate's story and exeriences. It is at the same time heart wrenching and informative. Some common threads run through the individual stories yet each is so unique you feel the pain of each individual story. Photographs of each writer, both past and present, help to make you feel a connection. I gained insight into cultures and lifestyles I knew nothing about and saw a part of life so realistically described that I felt I had been there myself. Wally Lamb did an extraordinary job putting this project together and the result is a book that I feel will benefit everyone and should be read by all.
117 of 122 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inmates are people first, prisoners second 24 Feb 2003
By A Customer - Published on
This book has already caused a stir for all the wrong reasons. Various victims' rights groups have taken issue with this book for the following reasons: (a) that Wally Lamb would devote his time to, of all things, a group of criminals; and (b) that the stories in this book humanize their writers rather than focuses on the victims of their crimes. It is undisputed that the women who wrote these memoirs did a variety of illegal, immoral and awful things. However, if you read these stories, you will begin to wonder who the victims really are.
The women's stories are uniformly heartbreaking; nearly all the authors were victims of sexual abuse. Nearly all grew up poor. Nearly all had minimal or questionable parental support. And about half wrote about abusive romantic relationships. Several of the authors are in prison for killing their abusive spouse and/or significant other. While it was wrong for them to take their husband's lives, it is also understandable once you read their harrowing tales.
I was especially moved by Bonnie Foreshaw's "Faith, Power and Pants" and Diane Bartholomew's "Snapshots of my former life." Both went from unbearable childhoods to atrocious marriages. Both are clearly angry with a system that has failed them. Yet both write of finding hope despite all the indignities life has thrown at them. As a final indignity, Bartholomew developed cancer while writing her memoir. Only then was she paroled for the murder of her abusive husband. It is clear that she was only paroled because the State of Connecticutt did not want to pay her chemotherapy bills.
This book can be harrowing to read but it left me with a sense of hope. Beautiful women exist underneath the prison fatigues, who have survived despite the brutal conditions of the penitentiary system. Each story in this collection moved me in a different way. I can say that about very few books.
79 of 85 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wally Lamb is brilliant as an editor too 29 Jan 2003
By Marge B. - Published on
I bought this book so I could read what a woman from my own community wrote. I expected to get through only her story the night I brought the book home with me. I'd already read other writings of hers, so I figured this woman's story would be a good read, which it was. After reading that one story, however, I read Mr. Lamb's intro - then I just couldn't stop reading. I read the entire book in one sitting!
In the past, especially being a social worker, I've read many stories about every possible life situation, but I have never read anything like this book. By the end of each story I felt a real sense of kinship and sisterhood with that story's author. I find it impossible to choose which is the most thought-provoking or well-written.
If this book is typical of Wally Lamb's ability to teach and to give of his heart, then I believe he is not only brilliant but the kind of mentor other incarcerated people need working with them. Thank goodness they couldn't keep it to themselves!
22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars lessons for the reader 2 Mar 2003
By Maggie Riley - Published on
Consider me a reader who was curious about the "public outcry" against publication of this book. I'm not sure what book was read prior to various comments and judgements being made public, through the press, but I don't think I read the same book.
What I read was a collection of powerful stories written about life experiences prior to criminal behavior forming, of lessons learned, responsibility taken, sadness, remorse, and plans for living differently in the future. I read stories of hope, despite tragic past errors.
Reading this book caused me to think about things I don't often think about. I now realize that anyone who has ever driven under the influence of alcohol, used a drug to numb emotional pain, or been involved in an abusive relationship should not judge because they might easily end up with some of the same problems, actions, and consequences; this would include many of my friends and myself as well.
It took a great deal of willingness, courage and hard work to delve so deeply into painful issues, then to expose the most intimate details of their explorations to each other and also to the reading public. Perhaps some non-incarcerated individuals will read this book and think about working up the same courage and willingness to take action concerning their own situations before it becomes to late for them too.
One writer states: "Hope is a miracle that can become contageous." This woman has been out of prison for over a decade now and has fully turned her life around; she has walked away from an abusive marriage, graduated from college, and now works in the field of human services. She also is a tutor of college English for disadvantaged individuals. Kudos to Mr. Lamb for caring enough to help her, and apparantly he did so PRIOR to beginning his current workshop at YORK.
Shouldn't that be one of the relative points of a prisoner's experience, to learn lessons and to change so when a sentence is over, neither they or those around them will continue being wronged or hurt in the future?
Perhaps instead of criticizing Wally Lamb, we in society need to take a closer look at his theory concerning therapeutic writing and his teaching style. Other prisons and ultimately the world outside of prisons might greatly benifit by following his lead.
31 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best books I've read in awhile 8 Dec 2005
By Amy - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I must confess, I did not open this book without some bias. I volunteer at a prison and have a deep interest in women's issues, and after reading the other reviews, I was pretty sure I would love this book. (I was right.) What I didn't expect was a strong desire to share it with just about everyone I know. Don't get me wrong, this is no "Chicken Soup for the Soul" -- there are some hard stories in this book. But the writing is outstanding, and in reading each story I was captivated by the author's personality, struggles, hopes, and essential humanity. This book was, for me, a powerful aid to compassion and understanding. I recommend it highly.
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