Monday, August 3, 2009

Review: Picking Cotton by Jennifer Thompson-Cannino and Ronald Cotton

by Jennifer Thompson-Cannino, Ronald Cotton, and Erin Torneo
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: St. Martin's Press (March 3, 2009)
ISBN-13: 9780312376536
Genre: Non-Fiction
Rating: 4/5

Jennifer Thompson was raped at knifepoint by a man who broke into her apartment while she slept. She was able to escape, and eventually positively identified Ronald Cotton as her attacker. Ronald insisted that she was mistaken-- but Jennifer's positive identification was the compelling evidence that put him behind bars. After eleven years, Ronald was allowed to take a DNA test that proved his innocence. He was released, after serving more than a decade in prison for a crime he never committed. Two years later, Jennifer and Ronald met face to face-- and forged an unlikely friendship that changed both of their lives.

In their own words, Jennifer and Ronald unfold the harrowing details of their tragedy, and challenge our ideas of memory and judgment while demonstrating the profound nature of human grace and the healing power of forgiveness.

I think most people have faith in our justice system. It's stories like Picking Cotton that make me wonder how many innocent people really are behind bars. With the increased use of DNA testing it's probably much less than in the past, but it still makes you think...

I love how Picking Cotton allows Jennifer and Ronald to tell their stories. This isn't a story that would do well with just one narrator, and the change in narrator from Jennifer to Ronald, and then a combined section really brings another layer to the book. It gives a voice to everyone involved and creates a fair telling of the story.

Picking Cotton is very well-written. The story is engrossing and flows very well. My one complaint is that it came across as a little unemotional at times for such an emotional story. Even with this, it's still a very compelling story and I would recommend it to memoir lovers and those interested in our justice system. 4 stars


Jenny said...

This looks really good -- esp. with having them both narrate! I'm going to add this to my WL.

Sandy Nawrot said...

This is just my style. I love true stories, and I love true crime. It is shocking and heart-breaking when you hear about the justice system completely breaking down (similar to "The Innocent Man" by Grisham). You want to rip your hair out, but it makes for really good reading!

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

I saw the two of them on some television program. It's amazing to me that he was able to forgive her.

Tracie said...

This definitely looks like my type of book. I love when people are faced with the unimaginable and then learn to become better people for it. Is the story actually written by Jennifer and Ronald? Or is there a ghost writer...curious :)

Zibilee said...

I read another review of this book that was positive as well. I think I might try to pick this book up. I like the shifting narrator technique and I think that it would probably enable the story to take more of a distinct shape. Great review, I will be looking for this one!