This is a fascinating read and Danya Kukafka is an excellent writer.
About the Author
Danya Kukafka is the bestselling author of the novels Notes On An Execution and Girl In Snow. She is a graduate of New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study. She works as a literary agent. Follow @danyakukafka on Twitter
About the book
Ansel Packer is scheduled to die in twelve hours. – He knows what he’s done, and now awaits the same fate he forced on those girls, years ago. Ansel doesn’t want to die; he wants to be celebrated, understood. – But this is not his story.
As the clock ticks down, three women uncover the history of a tragedy and the long shadow it casts. Lavender, Ansel’s mother, is a seventeen-year-old girl pushed to desperation. Hazel, twin sister to his wife, is forced to watch helplessly as the relationship threatens to devour them all. And Saffy, the detective hot on his trail, is devoted to bringing bad men to justice but struggling to see her own life clearly. – This is the story of the women left behind.
I first heard about this book on Twitter a few months ago and pre-ordered a copy based on what I was hearing, then I actually bought the Audiobook too. I found the premise intriguing, and I wasn’t disappointed at all – this is an excellent read.
It’s going to be really difficult to do this book the justice it deserves without giving too much away. The author weaves the complex layers of this psychological read, that veers into the literary sphere, with such expertise and detailed nuance – it is truly an indicator of a talented scribe and storyteller.
Narrated by the main character Ansel, the man on death row, and the women who have been a part of his life. The women who defined him, the women who called for his accountability, and the women who were his victims in one way or other. It’s a ticking clock, a timer, a revisiting of truths. His, their truths and the facts that meet both stories in the middle.
The boy, who like many others, is born into a world of violence and depravation, and subsequently abandoned or saved. It depends on the way you look at it. It’s easy to lay the blame for his future behaviour and crimes at the feet of an abusive parent and an absentee one. The truth is perhaps a little more complex, predictive behaviour and a genetic disposition in culmination with the worst start in life can result in a person who rightly ends up behind bars on death row.
The only aspect I wondered about was the connection between Lavender to Ansel at the end and whether it should have taken more of a centre stage, but then I thought about the intent, symbolism, emotional bond and power. More importantly, where all of those things should lie, because in her own way the author makes an argument for the both the hypocrisy and cruelty of the death sentence, whilst simultaneously proving why sometimes it is the only true solution. It may not be justice – there is no justice for certain crimes, but it is closure.
Kudos to Kukafka for the ending, the homage and the lost possibilities – very well said. It also gives and leaves the power with those who are deserving of it. This is certainly one of my top reads of the year.