Monday, October 24, 2011

In the Sanctuary of Outcasts

In the Sanctuary of Outcasts
By Neil White
Published by Harper Collins

Thanks to Cindi for recommending In the Sanctuary of Outcasts! I really appreciate when you all suggest books for me to read and review. Please feel free to contact me anytime you read something and think others would enjoy as well.

This book is the story of White's incarceration after being convicted of bank fraud. He was sentenced to a federal prison for 18 months. The interesting fact is that Neil was sentenced to the prison located at Carville, Louisiana which also happened to be the national leprosorium. The book is less about Hansen's Disease as much as it is about the changes White goes through personally and interpersonally while imprisoned.

I wasn't impressed at first with this book. White seemed to come across as very self-absorbed and did not have an appropriate understanding of why he was there. He kept thinking of ways to become famous as a result of his investigative reporting at Carville. He wanted his prison uniform to be highly starched and ironed before his family came to visit. He constantly nabbed all the cologne samples from the magazines so that he would smell nice. He looked down on both inmates and patients at Carville.

Then he began to develop a friendship with Ella, a woman who had lived at Carville for over seventy years. She had no lower legs and propelled herself around the campus in a wheelchair. But her wisdom, kindness and simple contentment with life provided valuable guidance and mentoring to a very prideful young man.

By the end of the book, I found myself appreciating all the people White had befriended, fellow prisoners and residents alike. Most of all I liked how White was able to write the narrative in such a way that made him seem like a real prick at the beginning but also showed the humbling life lessons he learned. White was clearly a better person by the end of the book -- although he still admittedly had a long way to go in the outside world. This is extremely hard to do and must have been as big of a challenge for White as it was actually living at Carville.

What did this book have to do with my faith? The introspection and honest look that White did on himself is so needed in every Christian. Not only does he realize that he had been motivated by one thing only but he had rationalized every behavior even when deep down he knew better. Pride had been his only compass and success his only goal. Everyone and every thing, his own family included, was second place to his desires. In the Sanctuary of Outcasts is really a confession of one man's prideful mistakes and an apology to all those he hurt along the way. How often do I take a good honest look at my own behavior? When have I rationalized what seemed on the outside to be good when deep down I knew better? God wants us to confess, to admit, to ask for forgiveness, whether it be in a book or a blog or to a friend. Even speaking alone to God is a beginning.

I highly recommend this book!

Happy reading (and introspection)!



  1. Hey Amelia! I didn't read this book, but you said you liked suggestions, and I wondered if you'd read Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter yet (by Tom Franklin, who's actually from Alabama). I liked it and I keep meaning to buy some more of his books. Anyway...enjoying the blog!