09/03/2010

Freed for Life (by Rita Nightingale)

I don't know anything much about Rita Nightingale other than what's in this autobiographical account, and searching online didn't find anything constructive to link to. In her later life she worked with prison ministries in the UK and elsewhere, married, had children, and then - apparently - had a controversial relationship with a prisoner where she was working.

Perhaps it's better not to know. 'Freed for Life' is her story, told from the perspective of a bright and opinionated young woman in her early 20s who travels to Australia and the Far East. She manages to find work, and is pretty street-smart, until she meets the smooth and charming James. It's not long before she finds herself arrested at the airport, with over three kilograms of heroin in her possession. She protests her innocence - she's on her way to the UK to see her mother, and has no interest in drugs. She's evidently been set up by some known drug pushers. But they escape while she is put in jail.

Rita starts her imprisonment by being resentful and angry, often rude to the warders, and rather scornful of Thai customs and people. Her case does not go well despite some excellent and helpful laywers, and she is sentenced to twenty years in a rather primitive and unpleasant jail.

She has several visitors and her case is taken up internationally. After a while she finds Jesus, and is eventually pardoned. The book ends as she attempts to re-adjust to life outside her prison.

I'd read this before, many years ago, and remembered the outline plot - which is given in the blurb on the back anyway. However I'd totally forgotten the detail. The writing is vivid and fast-paced, the story exciting and sometimes moving - and could be taken as a warning to anyone who might become over-involved in apparently plausible people in the Far East offering them money or free flights around the world.

This book has been long out of print, but is sometimes available second-hand.

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