Pub. Date: August 9, 2016
Source: e-ARC via publisher (Thank you, Putnam!)
Summary: Grace Bradshaw knows the exact minute she will die. On death row for murdering her infant son, her last breath will be taken on February 15 at 12:01 a.m. Eleven years, five months, and twenty-seven days separate her from the last time she heard her precious daughter’s voice and the final moment she’d heard anyone call her Mom. Out of appeals, she can focus on only one thing—reconnecting with her daughter and making sure she knows the truth.
Grace’s looming execution date forces Sophie to revisit the traumatic events that haunted her childhood. When she returns to her hometown, she discovers new evidence about her baby brother William’s death seventeen years ago—proof that might set her mother free but shatter her marriage forever.
Sophie must quickly decide if her mother is the monster the prosecutor made her out to be or the loving mother she remembers—the one who painted her toenails glittery pink and plastered Post-it notes with inspiring quotes (“100 percent failure rate if you don’t try”) all over Sophie’s bathroom mirror—before their time runs out.
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Fiction
2016 is the year for controversial topics, particularly sexual assaults (especially on a high school/college level) and the prison system. Over the course of a year I’ve read my fair share of books covering both of these – some good, some bad, all extremely heartbreaking and upsetting. With Love from the Inside is no different.
Seventeen years ago Grace Bradshaw was convicted of killing her infant son (it was said there were traces of windshield washer fluid inside William’s bottle, though independent testing couldn’t replicate these these findings) and was sent to death row. For many years after her husband and daughter stood by her side continuing to fight for her as each appeal fell through, though Grace’s daughter found it harder to defend her mother’s innocence as she grew.
With her father’s death, Sophie could no longer stay in a town where everyone knew her as the daughter of a baby killer and used college as a chance to reinvent herself. Eventually she found a wonderful man and the two married, though years later, he still knew nothing of her family; Sophie had always said she was an only child and that her parents had passed on when she was young.
Now that Grace has an execution date set, she desperately wants to regain contact with her daughter, finally make amends. She never stopped loving Sophie and she dreams about seeing her one final time. After years of declining contact, Sophie still isn’t sure she wants to see her mother, but when she discovers something that could finally prove her mother’s innocence once and for all, it’s a race against the clock (and the government) to set her mother free.
Oh boy. This book. In alternating chapters, the story gives a voice to Grace (in prison) and Sophie (in her fabulously wealthy community where she must retain her facade of perfection). There are a few other woman in Grace’s cell block, and there personalities vary wildly. One young woman is angry at the world and blames everyone else for her problems, another is on husband number four and doesn’t care who hears their racy phone calls. There are pleasant officers and officers who take full advantage of their authority. Grace has tried to make the most of it, fervently reading her Bible and collecting the monthly dinner menus from cooking magazines as a way to mark off the days. She spends her time thinking about her family and how much she loved – and still loves – them. Her attorney never gave up hope and has been trying to do everything possible – including tracking down Sophie.
Sophie, on the other hand, doesn’t really want to be found. She’s living a great life with a doctor husband. She’s got it all, though each day she lives in fear that her secrets will finally be exposed. It’s at Thanksgiving dinner that she firsts learns of her mother’s upcoming execution and from there, Sophie’s and Grace’s stories intertwine.
With the help of Grace’s lawyer, Sophie uncovers evidence that William might have had a disease to where breaking down food was all but impossible. It would certainly explain why he was sick every single time he was fed. But as Grace’s execution date draws nearer, Sophie and Ben aren’t sure they’ll have enough time to convince the governor to grant her clemency.
I won’t give away the ending, though I will say it was a total gut-punch and there were a few unanswered questions I had, but overall With Love from the Inside was a thoroughly heartfelt, gripping drama. I was captivated from the first page and didn’t put the book down until I was finished. Be sure to have the tissues with you: more than a few tears were shed!