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Almost Home: My Life Story Paperback – 3 Jun 2005
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Almost Home is a message to you from a faraway place. It is a message from a 12-foot by 9-foot cell in a cinderblock building surrounded by coils of razor wire in the middle of a dirt field in Arkansas. It was written by a young man named Damien Echols and it chronicles his life and his experiences in a way that clearly illuminates him, not as a monster, but as a human being. For over 10 years Damien has been an inmate on death row for a crime he did not commit. He, along with Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley have become known as The West Memphis Three, and though the story of their arrest and conviction is widely known, most people don't know the real people behind the sound bites and the TV news segment clips. Damien has spent much of his time behind bars diligently maintaining his integrity and his sanity by writing. Almost Home is the product of that self-discipline, and in it you will meet someone who has survived an ordeal many of us would find impossible to live through.There are a few who still believe that Damien is a devil-worshipping child killer, but as time passes and more facts rise to the surface, it becomes even more clear that he is the victim of a peculiar species of hysteria. Read this book and know the truth about him. It is an urgent message from death row; the whole story of who Damien Echols really is.
About the Author
A prolific and accomplished writer, poet, and visual artist, Damien Echols has found unexpected inspiration in his grim situation. He currently resides on death row in an Arkansas prison. Innocent of the crime for which he was convicted, Damien continues his fight for freedom.
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Damien Echols is no longer the teenager that was incarcerated in the early 70's accused of the brutal murder (along with Jesse Misskelley and Jason Baldwin) of three 8 year old boys. Sometimes the teenager still glows from the pages of this book. The man who's never seen the internet, who's never watched a DVD all because he wore black, read occult books and was viewed with suspicion by a small pocket of the West Memphis community.
This book is an insight into the background of this man. People who want the gory details of his arrest and trial will be sorely disappointed, these are only touched on in the last few chapters, and not in much detail either.
Instead, the story of a young man discovering himself; rebelling,falling in obsessive love, battling with parents (and step-parents) unfolds. We could all have written the first half of the book ... well, most of us. Instead, in the back of your mind, as you read this, you know that Damien Echols is not like us. Damien is a man who has been locked up and had the key thrown away. Damien is a man sitting on death row, waiting for justice to be done.
Before I'd heard about the WM3, I used to joke to my friends that if I was ever suspected in a murder case, and they took a look at my book collection, I would be a prime suspect (let's face it, every killer has had their library records and book collections scrutinised). I stopped making this joke after I read about this case. Because it happened to these boys.
'My Life Story' isn't the best written auto-biography I've ever read, but you connect with the story on so many levels that you forgive him for his naivity and arrogance.
I just wish Jason Baldwin and Jesse Misskelley were as vocal ...
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Echols is a coherent and sympathetic writer; he states that he wishes to laugh when he laughs, cry when he cries, and feel his emotions, and this is something he manages to accomplish.
My interpretation of the book was not that he was presenting himself in too positive a light; indeed, there were many times I thought "God, what a jerk" and he himself used stronger epithets than that to describe his own behaviour.
But whatever else this book is, it's not an easy read. It's gripping and emotional, and sensitive readers are advised to take it in stages.
This is not a criticism of Echols. There was a time in his life when the family was so poor they were living in a one-room tin shack with a dirt floor and trying to grow their own food to survive, and as an intelligent but (in my opinion) sarcastic and misanthropic teen with "unusual" interests living in small town deep South, his life was ripped away from him at an appallingly young age by corrupt authorities.
The list of injustices that have happened on this case are appalling and the fact that these things could happen in America in the late 20th century are frightening. This book, the documentary Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills and the case should be required reading and knowledge for all junior high and high school students, all criminal justice students and law students.