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"A Saint on Death Row" by Thomas Cahill

This book is about the events leading up to the 2004 execution of Dominique Green, formerly of Houston. Dominique was convicted of shooting a gas station attendant although there were no witnesses; the only person who claimed to see the crime never claimed to see Dominique actually shoot the victim. He was convicted by virtue of being poor and having a horrible lawyer in a trial so buffoonish that the victim's family actually protested it. (They later befriended him and refused to attend his execution.)

Dominique, who was 30 when he died after 12 years in Death Row, seems to have been a good kid gone bad after a history of tragic abuse.  In prison he turned his life around as sometimes happens and attracted the attention of the San'Egidio religious community in Italy, where his example and increasingly literate writing style won hearts and minds, especially after his essay about the rosary he'd made for himself was published in  the National Catholic Reporter.

Although I'd had this book highly recommended to me via the catholicism community, I was disappointed.  Dominique was black, and I felt that this book was less his biography than the white author's ploy to turn Dominique's story into a anti-death penalty essay.  While I fully expected the book to be partly that, I still had the uncomfortable feeling that Dominque was a means to an end. 

The book talks briefly about his prayer life, particularly his use of An African Prayer Book given to him by +Archbishop Desmond Tutu who visited him once, and of course his famous rosary.  However that's all Cahill gives us.  I wanted to read about his return to the Church, because that had to have been an epic journey--Dominique had been raped by a priest as a child.  I can get facts and figures and anecdotes about executions anywhere on the internet.  Biographies of souls that become beautiful despite all odds, not so much.

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Comments

( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
garpu
Aug. 17th, 2009 07:25 pm (UTC)
Hrm...be interesting to see if there are other books spawned by this one that delve more into his spiritual life. Think I'll look for this one at Halfprice books, though.
napoleonofnerds
Aug. 17th, 2009 07:33 pm (UTC)
Thanks for this review. I was thinking of getting it but I think I'll pass. I know why the death penalty is bad, I was more hoping to hear about this kid and what happened to him.
megglesmcgoo
Aug. 17th, 2009 08:08 pm (UTC)
Is there any chance that Thomas Cahill is the author of "How the Irish Saved Civilisation"? If so I would've said that was quite a genre leap for him.
kishiriadgr
Aug. 18th, 2009 08:15 am (UTC)
That's him. I've heard "Irish" is a REALLY good book.
megglesmcgoo
Aug. 18th, 2009 11:05 am (UTC)
Yes it is very good. I read it many years ago but it was suggested about six months ago for a book group I run on ravelry so it has come up again recently for me.

I don't know what the rest of his work is like but if he usually writes approachable history of that sort I can imagine biography would be out of his comfort zone
hagazusa
Aug. 17th, 2009 09:12 pm (UTC)
What a heart-rending story. A pity Thomas Cahill's book didn't do Dominique Green's life justice.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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