Book Reviews - Winter 2022

The Burden of Guilt

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A plea for grace and forgiveness after a terrible crime

By Lara Bazelon | December 1, 2021
Charlie Beldon (Flickr/rikka)
Charlie Beldon (Flickr/rikka)

In The Uninnocent, Katharine Blake, an adjunct professor at Vermont Law School’s Center for Justice Reform, confronts a horrific murder committed by her cousin Scott, who as a teenager received a sentence of life without the possibility of parole. In detailing the facts, the aftermath, and her attempts to connect with Scott, Blake ruminates on the nature of heartbreak, forgiveness, family, justice, mercy, and redemption.

The Uninnocent is a hard book. It is not hard to read: the slim volume is filled with Blake’s lilting, at times poetic sentences—the cellblocks in San Quentin Prison are “like library stacks, rows and rows of stories down every dimly lit hall.” Her spare and often gorgeous prose is enriched by frequent quotations from Sumerian proverbs, Saint Augustine, the King James Bible, C. S. Lewis, and James Baldwin, among many others.

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