REVIEW: One More Chance, Lucy Ayrton

Monday, 26 November 2018

Dani hasn't had an easy life. She's made some bad choices and now she's paying the ultimate price; prison. With her young daughter Bethany, growing up in foster care, Dani is determined to be free and reunited with her. There's only one problem; Dani can't stay out of trouble. Dani's new cellmate Martha is quiet and unassuming. There's something about her that doesn't add up. When Martha offers Dani one last chance at freedom, she doesn't hesitate. Everything she wants is on the outside, but Dani is stuck on the inside. Is it possible to break out when everyone is trying to keep you in...

Around nine months ago, I remember seeing Rachel Kushners’ The Mars Room on the longlist for the Women’s Prize for Fiction, considering its reviews for a moment and giving it a pass. Around three years ago, I passed on watching Orange is the New Black. I mean, the hype was insane and all of my friends were watching it, so why did I do that? Me? A girl who is constantly wittering on about wanting women-who-love-women to be better represented in media.
Primarily, it is because I thought that surely, nothing interesting enough could be happening inside of a prison to warrant a book being written about it.
But holy god, I was wrong.
And all it took was an author who is a Communications Manager of a prison charity, to hammer the point home. Lucy Ayrton has spent much of the last few years talking with women in the Holloway Mother and Baby Unit, and One More Chance really shows that. In its pages are authentic, evocative, true-to-life people; ones whose stories draw attention to the cycle of so easily made, bad choices that has led to innumerable women being placed in the prison system - drugs, domestic violence, poverty, prostitution, the violence prized once they are inside. It is truly a downward spiral in every sense of the phrase and, through Ayrton’s protagonist Dani, she masterfully illustrates just how quickly one can morph into another, before even a person can truly realise just how bad their situation has become.
This book, and Dani’s story, is all about breaking that cycle. Doing all that you can to change your situation, even if you’re placing all of your hopes on something that can not possibly ever be real, or something that seems impossibly far away. It feels like a last option, one final try before the end, and that’s because for Dani, it is. And through that, the reader garners a huge amount of sympathy and empathy, and truly wants her to succeed. Because, nearly all of us know that when we are put in these positions of desperation, everyone needs to believe in something to help them get through the difficulty of the days...
Even if that thing may not tangibly exist.
Because at that level of despair, desire and reckless need, it is usually the only thing left to cling to.

Thanks to Dialogue Books for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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