Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Willow in a Storm: A Memoir by James Peter Taylor & Kathleen Murphy-Taylor--Book Review

A gripping and oftentimes shocking story of one man's journey through life and the tactics he had to employ to survive decades in prison.

Sexually abused at a young age by family and friends, James Peter Taylor marries young and then abandons his wife and daughter. In pursuit of the "perfect crime" he unintentionally kills Minnesota banker Kenneth Lindberg and is sent to prison for two 10-year terms,plus life.

After attempting suicide on more than one occasion, Jim decides he wants to live and learns ways to help him survive his long prison sentence. The sexual abuse and violence in prison leave him confused about his sexuality and beaten almost to death. Released on parole in 1980, James Taylor finds himself back in prison on false charges and spends over a decade seeking parole--which is constantly denied based upon Jim being charged with a crime the government says he committed in 1985 while he was actually serving time in Lewisburg, PA.

Meeting a few people along the way who believe in Jim's rehabilitation and offer help, Jim is finally paroled in 1995. Now an old man and partially blind, Jim must find his way in the world and put his years of sexual abuse and prison life behind him.

Willow in a Storm is a moving story of one man's life that could have taken a very different path with the right set of circumstances. A strong athelete, Jim's inability to see things through finds him leaving scholarships and jobs behind. His tense relationship with his adopted father is damaged further by the sexual abuse he is victim of at his father's hands. And while Taylor does not make excuses or blame anyone for his plight, the reader must wonder what the impact might have been if even one thing about Jim's early life were changed.

The stories of the physical and sexual violence Taylor endured during his years in prison are graphic and disturbing, as are the descriptions of prison guards meting out excessive and unwarranted punishments. The authors did not sugar coat anything. The reader can actually feel Taylor's frustration in dealing with the injustices served him during his time in prison, which is part of what makes Taylor's rehabilitation and successful reintroduction into society so triumphant. Crediting the good people he met along his journey and his faith in God, Taylor says, "I had some rare experiences that few other people have in this life, and through these experiences I was able to learn exactly what I needed to learn."

An excellent first-person account for anyone interested in memoirs or prison reform.

Title: Willow in a Storm
Authors: James Peter Taylor and Kathleen Murphy-Taylor
Publisher: Scarletta Press
ISBN-13: 978-0-9765201-5-3
ISBN-10: 0-9765201-5-X
U.S. Price: $14.95

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