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Life After Death

3.93  ·  Rating Details ·  6,374 Ratings  ·  867 Reviews
In 1993 three teenagers, Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Miskelley Jr were arrested and charged with the murders of three eight-year-old boys in West Memphis, Arkansas. The ensuing trial was rife with inconsistencies, false testimony and superstition. Echols was accused of, among other things, practising witchcraft and satanic rituals – a result of the “satanic ...more
Hardcover, 399 pages
Published September 18th 2012 by Blue Rider Press (first published September 17th 2012)
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Benjamin Siess
Aug 08, 2016 Benjamin Siess rated it it was ok
I had several problems with this book.

Like everyone else has noted, Echols' overuse of the word "Magickal" was beyond cloying. I could rant about this for a paragraph, but suffice it to say that it was infuriating within twenty pages and it only increased over the rest of the three hundred seventy.

Echols had a shitty life. One of the shittier imaginable. But he seems to have contempt for about ninety-five percent of people, which, given his history, is completely understandable. But it made th
...more
Amy
Oct 12, 2012 Amy rated it liked it
This review is on the book, Life After Death, not on the case of the West Memphis 3, my opinions on the case, or how injustice like this can (and does) happen within the legal system of America.

I was very disappointed in this book. There, I said it. Why was I disappointed? Because for the first 60% of the book, with the exception of maybe 10 pages, it was word-for-word his previous memoir, which I purchased and read a few years ago. I pulled out Almost Home and compared the text.

I learned very
...more
Diane
Jan 21, 2015 Diane rated it liked it
This is an interesting read about prison life, about what it's like to be falsely accused, about being a misunderstood and vilified teenager, about growing up in poverty and about trying to enlighten oneself and avoid focusing on hate.

Damien Echols has received so much media attention in his life that you probably already know he was one of the West Memphis Three (WM3), who were three teens accused of killing three boys in Arkansas in 1993. Damien was accused of being a satanist and of sacrifici
...more
Gere Lewis
Sep 27, 2012 Gere Lewis rated it it was amazing
I will start with what I didn't like because there was only one thing. Much of the content of Life After Death was essentially Damien's memoir Almost Home, which I also own.

That being said, I understand that not every person has read Almost Home and for those people, the entire book is new content. It is IMPORTANT for people to know the story of Damien's life before the murders of Christopher Byers, Michael Moore, and Steven Branch. Why? Because Damien Echols is a human being. He is a complete p
...more
Lorena Drapeau
May 27, 2013 Lorena Drapeau rated it it was amazing
This book was written by Damien Echols who was wrongly accused and convicted along with Jessie Misskelley Jr and Jason Baldwin in the brutal killing of three eight year old boys in Arkansas. Damien was 18 at the time and these three came to be known as the West Memphis Three after HBO did a documentary on them. After much publicity and support from people like Johnny Deep and hundreds of people like me they were finally released in August of 2011 on an Alfreds (?) plea which means that they ...more
Jim
Mar 04, 2013 Jim rated it it was ok
When I started to read this book, I knew nothing about the West Memphis 3. When I finished the book, I knew almost nothing about the West Memphis 3. The author and two of his contemporaries served jail time in the double digits (the author on death row) for the murder of three young boys. According to various statements, confessions and retractions they made, they didn't do it, then did it, then didn't do it, then did it but got to go free.

I think I can be forgiven for my naivete in thinking tha
...more
Lisa Vegan
Jul 20, 2013 Lisa Vegan rated it really liked it
Recommended to Lisa by: Joy
I’d like to see the 2 documentaries and given how overbooked I am, perhaps I should have just seen them and not read this book, but I’m glad I read it. I plan to see the films too, and take a look at the several websites listed in the book.

I knew life was unfair by the time I was 7, and never screamed out the commonly used line by children that (something) isn’t fair, but some things are utterly ridiculous. What happened to the author is one of those things.

This account was more horrifying that
...more
Chasta Schneider
Before I begin, let me say that I am reviewing the format, content and delivery of this book - NOT the ordeal that Mr. Echols has gone through. Personally, I find what happened to these three young men to be a travesty and am appalled that once a conviction is passed down, even when there is legitimate evidence, the prosecuting side and even many judges refuse to consider it, simply because it could lead to the realization that they may have put an innocent person in prison. I could never live ...more
Mara
Jul 06, 2015 Mara rated it it was ok
Given how horrific the ordeal Damien Echols went through was (years spent on Death Row for a crime he didn't commit), it feels a bit churlish to give his memoir a low rating--but this book was a disappointment to me.

The title "Life After Death" made me expect a focus on the process through which he and the other members of the "West Memphis Three" were finally freed from prison and perhaps some thoughts about what it's been like to readjust to life outside. Instead, more than half the book is g
...more
Tanja Berg
Apr 16, 2013 Tanja Berg rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, kindle
Five despairing stars out of five, despite almost losing my faith in humanity reading this book. I'm still struggling to see through my tears.

My primary thought: the death penaly should be abolished world wide and particularly in the United States for the following reasons.
- It dehumanizes society
- The act is inhumane in itself
- As long as there is a risk of having anyone innocent on Death Row, the ones who have forfeited their right to live through whatever atrocities committed will just have
...more
Allison
Aug 23, 2012 Allison rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non, netgalley
Damien Echols was one of the West Memphis Three, though he asks to not be classified under that title anymore. He'd rather be known for any number of other things, and once his book, Life After Death, hits shelves on September 18th, I have no doubt he'll become known as an eloquent author.

The book is about his life, starting from childhood, spanning his eighteen years in prison, and touching on the freedom he's had since being released last August. It is deeply personal, with emotions riding rig
...more
Kirsty
I was really looking forward to reading this, it had great a premise and I hadn't heard any details of the WM3 beforehand, so I had nothing to judge it by. Honestly though I was disappointed.

The book needs a good editor to go through it to strip out all the unnecessary, irrelevant and repetitive parts, and highlight the hard hitting, important parts that make this story so shocking.

Although it's great to have a back story and overview of his whole life, I was not expecting to have half the boo
...more
Sara
Sep 23, 2012 Sara rated it really liked it
I followed the WM3 case for a good ten years before the three wrongly accused men were released. This is the memoirs of Damien Echols, the supposed "ringleader" who spent half of his life on death row for a crime he didn't commit.

Absolutely heartbreaking and fascinating, this book is a mix of past recollections and writings made from prison, with some personal photos. For someone with a limited education this book is remarkably well written and shows the authors' obvious natural high intelligenc
...more
Rivka
Apr 10, 2013 Rivka rated it really liked it
So, I should say that I didn't know too much about the West Memphis Three when I came across this book. Months ago, I walked into the Barnes and Noble in Union Square to use the bathroom and found that there was a line of people waiting for a signing that reached from the first to the fourth floor. Who could this possibly be for? I took note of the book and the person- Damien Echols, Life After Death. I'm glad for it.

Having a passion for prison reform and firm convictions about the abolition of
...more
Manda
May 17, 2013 Manda rated it it was amazing
Echols doesn't always come across as the most reliable narrator, and while he openly admits to making a string of really terrible decisions growing up, it is this honesty that gives rise to the thought that there is another side of the story that isn't being told. Not to say he had any involvement in the West Memphis killings, on the contrary, there is no doubt that Damien Echols was an innocent man, a fact has been accepted by all but the legal system.

Even before the victims were murdered his l
...more
Nicola
Feb 08, 2013 Nicola rated it really liked it
Occasionally beautiful and frequently harrowing, Life After Death is a thoughtful (if raw) account of not just Damien’s Echols’ life behind bars for a crime he didn’t commit, but also the circumstances (poverty, prejudice) that led him there.

What’s incredible about Echols’ story is how well he’s able to tell it. This is no ghost-written, cash-in-quick memoir. It’s clear that Echols is a writer who has worked hard on his craft, and his descriptions of life before and after his conviction are visc
...more
Joy
Jun 27, 2013 Joy rated it it was amazing
This is an incredible true story of a survivor who endured over 18 years on death row for a crime he did not commit. I will write more about this book soon. I highly recommend it.

If you have conflicting feelings about the death penalty, you should definitely read this book. I had to return it to the library today, but I will not forget it.
PJ
Jan 07, 2013 PJ rated it really liked it
Damien Echols was sent to death row for a crime he did not commit. I have followed the case for about ten years. He and two co-defendants were released from prison using an Alford plea, a legal maneuver in which a defendant pleads guilty while maintaining innocence. The option was offered to them by the state of Arkansas after DNA evidence piled on to other overwhelming evidence that the three convicted in the murders of three 8-year-olds did not, indeed, commit the crime. The move allows ...more
Annk
Oct 14, 2012 Annk rated it it was amazing
I read this book and it scared me to death. Those poor kids getting railroaded into prison for over 18 years shows that there are crooked people in all professions. I hope Jerry Driver is rotting in hell right now along with everyone else connected with the sham trials. Why would anyone willingly live in the south? It's like the Hills Have Eyes with banjo music. I hope Damien, Jason and Jessie have beautiful uneventful lives from here on out. They deserve nothing less than the best.
Erin
Oct 09, 2014 Erin rated it really liked it
I've read a number of books about the West Memphis Three (in addition to all the movies, of course) and this was an interesting addition - Echols reflects on prison life, the trial, meeting his wife and even a bit about life after his release. There was a bit too much reflection on "magick" (why do people insist on spelling it this way? Is it significant in some way?) but overall a worthwhile read for those interested in Echols and the subject.
Stephanie
Jan 04, 2013 Stephanie rated it it was amazing
No matter what your views on crime and punishment in the United States in general, or on the death penalty in particular, Damien Echols' memoir is certain to move you, challenge you, and devastate you. I only became aware of the "West Memphis Three" story a few years ago. I've since watched the HBO "Paradise Lost" documentaries with alternating degrees of sympathy and horror. I've always wanted to believe that our justice system functions (mostly) fairly and objectively, despite the occasional ...more
Erin Cataldi
Feb 06, 2013 Erin Cataldi rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2013
Holy shit. I haven't had a book depress me, disgust me, inspire me, and compel me this much in a long time. It's a book filled with injustice and I applaud Damien Echols for making it through this insane and maddening ordeal.

I had followed the West Memphis Three case extensively when I was in high school. For those of you who aren't familiar with the case, in 1993 three teenage boys in Arkansas were wrongly convicted of satanically murdering three little boys. It was a very modern day Salem witc
...more
Nicole
Oct 06, 2012 Nicole rated it it was amazing
I find it hard to review memoirs because it makes me feel like I’m reviewing a person’s journal of their life, but to not say how much I enjoyed “Life After Death” would be a shame. Damien Echols was wrongly convicted of murder and sent to Death Row for 18 years. I’ve written several things over the years about my outrage of the case, so I’m not going into detail on any of that because it can be found all over the internet. What I will say is that my admiration for Damien Echols grew with every ...more
Susan
Dec 23, 2012 Susan rated it it was ok
This man's story of being an innocent incarcerated for murder for 17 years is compelling. However, Echols is not up to the task, maybe because he was too much inside the story? The author's insistance on spelling magic with a "K" on the end and then using the word over and over again was annoying. While some of his phrasing and descriptions are evocative and poignant, I found myself wanting more about the crime and who might have actually committed it. And even though I can agree that the prison ...more
Dani Steph
Aug 18, 2013 Dani Steph rated it did not like it
He has nothing to say except what he always regurgitates... It's a good thing he has a script to go by, I mean you don't want to get confused and admit anything right?!

Think he's guilty and he's capitalizing on it. I've read his books just to scrutinize it and compare to the rest of the case information. It's interesting everything you learn that the HBO specials left out and that he conveniently leaves out of his books as well.

What's sad is when people say "The Memphis 3" they think of those th
...more
Terry
Jul 23, 2015 Terry rated it liked it
This was a truly horrifying account of a young man convicted of an unspeakable crime that he did not commit. After serving almost 20 years in jail, and years on death row, it is a testament to the strength of human spirit. This guy had almost no positive influences while growing up (in absolute poverty) then was arrested for being different. I won't go into the details of the trial and imprisonment, but it is amazing that a person can remain sane at all, enduring what he did for years.
The writin
...more
shannon
Oct 19, 2012 shannon rated it liked it
Shelves: 2012
I wanted to read this in part because I think the death penalty is a disgusting, evil, barbaric thing regardless of innocence or guilt, and like lots of high school weirdoes the wm3 story resonated with me and made me glad to be surrounded by progressive minded hippies in my youth. Man, this was depressing. I can never take the social work out of my perspective, and the stunted development is just really frigging sad. I quibble over what was a horrific miscarriage of justice but oy, magic(k) ...more
Candi Berry
Oct 10, 2012 Candi Berry rated it it was amazing
This book is exactly what I thought it would be, it moved me deeply. I would go from laughing one minute to crying the next. What an incredible journey this man has taken. His will to survive and better himself in the face of unthinkable adversity is truly inspiring. His fight for a place inside of himself that couldn't be reached by the darkness of his adversaries is remarkable. I was touched by so many of the thoughts he shared, I've included my favorites below.

"Faith is nothing more than a w
...more
Audra
Nov 28, 2012 Audra rated it liked it
I read this book because I was interested in learning more about Echols after having seen all of the HBO documentaries about his case. I was a little disappointed in this book. First of all, I feel like it was written by two different people. The first half of the book was about his childhood and upbringing in a poverty stricken environment. While I found the subject matter interesting, giving me insight about Echols and how he came to be convicted of a crime he didn't commit, I found the actual ...more
Ryan Olson
Jul 17, 2012 Ryan Olson rated it really liked it
If you've seen the groundbreaking HBO documentary Paradise Lost and the subsequent sequels, Paradise Lost 2 and Paradise Lost 3, you'll be very familiar with the the case of the West Memphis 3.

Life After Death, by Damien Echols is the definitive memoir of life behind bars as he and his legal team fought to clear his name and the names of his two friends who were falsely accused and convicted of killing three children in West Memphis, Arkansas. Echols uses his time in prison keeping a journal of
...more
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Damien Wayne Echols, along with Jessie Misskelley and Jason Baldwin, is one of the three men, known as the West Memphis Three, who were convicted in the killing of three eight-year-old boys Steve Branch, Christopher Byers, and Michael Moore at Robin Hood Hills, West Memphis, Arkansas, on May 5, 1993.

Damien Echols was convicted of murder by a jury and sentenced to death by lethal injection. He was
...more
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“Someone sent me a letter that had one of the best quotes I've ever read. It said "What is to give light must endure burning." It's by a writer named Viktor Frankl. I've been turning that quote over and over in my head. The truth of it is absolutely awe-inspiring. In the end, I believe it's why we all suffer. It's the meaning we all look for behind the tragedies in our lives. The pain deepens us, burns away our impurities and petty selfishness. It makes us capable of empathy and sympathy. It makes us capable of love. The pain is the fire that allows us to rise from the ashes of what we were, and more fully realize what we can become. When you can step back and see the beauty of the process, it's amazing beyond words.” 48 likes
“Those with less curiosity or ambition just mumble that God works in mysterious ways. I intend to catch him in the act.” 38 likes
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