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Book Review: Short Story Collection

Posted on May 27, 2017 |

The Graybar Hotel by Curtis Dawkins


Short Stories > Prison > Drug Addiction > Alcoholism

If you like Orange is the New Black or are interested in the topics of addiction and our damaged prison system or if you just like well-written short stories, you will enjoy this collection authored by a man who is serving a life sentence for murdering a man during a home invasion.


As with any short story collection, I liked some stories more than others, but the writing is consistently good. The stories convey the boredom of incarceration, but what I felt most acutely was not being able to get away from the endless mindless chatter of other inmates (like one character who consistently bored his other inmates with explicit descriptions of his dreams). One of my favorites of the book was titled “Engulfed,” in which the narrator describes the liars in prison as well as the way those of us on the outside lie—to others and to ourselves.

I would have expected stories about the fear of being raped, but there wasn’t any of that. There are some stories about the fear of being beaten up over not being able to pay back debts to other prisoners.

Some stories are about what becoming an addict is like—what leads someone to begin to steal to support a habit. Others are about the first days of incarceration, others about what it’s like to be inside for many years, another about the challenge of getting out into the world.

I read this in two big chunks, which is not the way to read a short story collection. However, taken in smaller reads, these stories show the lives of damaged people inside and outside prison walls.

Thanks to NetGalley for the opportunity to review this book.

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