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This Is Not My Life: A Memoir of Love, Prison, and Other Complications

3.67  ·  Rating details ·  458 ratings  ·  83 reviews
From the Governor General’s Award winning author of Forms of Devotion, Our Lady of the Lost and Found and By the Book

“Never once in my life had I dreamed of being in bed with a convicted killer.”

For almost six turbulent years, award-winning writer Diane Schoemperlen was involved with a prison inmate serving a life sentence for second-degree murder. The relationship surpris
...more
Paperback, 368 pages
Published April 26th 2016 by HarperAvenue (first published April 23rd 2016)
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Average rating 3.67  · 
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DeB MaRtEnS
Many individuals have experienced complicated lives, out of a consequence of fractured childhoods with coping skills learned not quite being effective tools in adulthood. Relationships carry fault lines, when trust is tested and broken and the resulting shifts can reproduce a sense of those earliest instabilities. Sometimes, in these complicated lives, the need to heal "the other", fulfill wants - "to put right" - is a replay of a childhood story attempt for redemption, where none should have ev ...more
Krista
May 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
It is safe to say that never once in my life had I dreamed of being in bed with a convicted killer, let alone one with his teeth in a margarine container in the kitchen, his mother in the next room, and the word HI! tattooed in tiny blue letters on his penis.

Near the end of 2005 – in a funk on the heels of a tough breakup that had led to persistent writer's block – award-winning Canadian author Diane Schoemperlen took the advice of a friend and began volunteering at a hot lunch program as a
...more
Lauren Davis
Nov 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I was asked to blurb this book and am delighted to do so: "With scalding candor, bravery, and a considerable amount of humor, Diane Schoemperlen has written a moving memoir about unexpected love. She reminds us what love is, and how even it if can’t always have a fairy tale ending, it nonetheless offers redemption.”
Audrey Ogilvie
May 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I thought this book was fascinating from many perspectives. The author was drawn to, and fell in love with, a man who was in prison for murder, albeit a crime that was committed years before she met him. There is not question that the love was real, deeply felt by both people, but the forest of what would turn out to be an fraught with problems is so clearly explained. It's impossible not to feel the searing pain of both people. Sharing this love story is the evidence of a Canadian judicial/pena ...more
Chris Thomas
May 26, 2016 rated it liked it
This book was kind of like watching a train wreck. You can't believe she is doing what she is and once she is free of him she goes back for more. It does seem like figures out why she is compelled to embark on this relationship by the end of the book.
Susan
Mar 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
A very honest and readable memoir. While it's hard to understand why Diane maintained her relationship with Shane for five years, it was just as hard for her to understand why. She's completely open about that fact. Her journey to understanding and finding the strength to break away is a compelling one. The book includes great insight into the Canadian prison and parole system as well.
Yvonne
Nov 13, 2016 rated it liked it
I really respect Diane's honesty in writing this, at times, excruciating work. This took self reflection, understanding, and courage. I too have been in relationships that were profoundly bad for me, and it's hard to look them square in the eye and admit my role in them. And it's hard to admit wanting to continue in those relationships when to those looking in on you, it's clearly a monumental disaster.
So kudos to you Diane.
As many reviewers have noted, the observations and realities of Correcti
...more
James Fisher
May 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is Not My Life is one of the best books I have read this year. It was one of those books that you begrudgingly put down (sleep, life and work must go on!) and couldn't wait to pick it up again. Ms. Schoemperlen could have created a masterful work of fiction out of her experience, but she chose to candidly write this as a memoir and it is due to this choice that the book's emotional impact really comes to the fore. I had to keep reminding myself that what I was holding was not a novel, but a ...more
Jennifer
Sep 27, 2019 rated it liked it
I really enjoyed parts of this!

This book is a memoir about a woman who falls in love with a man convicted of second-degree murder. The parts of this book that focused on CSC, tough on crime approaches, & institutionalization were really interesting. I cared a bit less about their actual relationship and I felt parts of this book could have been cut, but it was so interesting to see things im learning in class be applicable in real life as well.
...more
Marci -
Diane, as always.... stupendous! I have been in many of the same situations as you I was thinking while I read this. We as humans are fallable, make mistakes thinking we know how it will or not end. But at the end of it all we fool ourselves into thinking differently. Thank you for sharing your story and I look forward to hearing more.
Christina McLain
Dec 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a memoir focusing on the years the author,a celebrated Canadian writer, spent loving a convicted killer named Shane. It is also a rather bemused indictment of the Canadian penal system which while it doesn't incarcerate people as easily as the American system does, has some strange quirks and questionable rules. For example, Schoemperlen details how the prison authorities went to great lengths screening visitors for drugs, using body searches, dogs and ion scanners to detect even the sli ...more
Kate
Jul 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Tough book. I love Schoemperlen .. her "Lady of the Lost and Found" is one of my absolute favourite books. Was super-excited to read this memoir. It is beautifully written. I found it difficult to read, but it is always difficult for me to read about unhealthy relationships.

I admire and am a bit in awe of how brutally honest Schoemperlen is about her relationship with Shane - and how she can write so clearly about the problematic issues in the relationship, but still make me feel, with absolute
...more
Jenny Manzer
Apr 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Diane Schoemperlen is such a wonderful writer. I was glued to the first three quarters of this book. I was fascinated by the details of the prison system (and, more accurately, the people who love convicted criminals) and also in finding out more about Schoemperlen, a writer whose short stories I have long admired. My interest in the details of the prison system and her relationship with Shane was not quite as high at the very end as the relationship waxed and waned and cycles repeated. (But thi ...more
Jakky
Jun 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
I started reading this memoir and abandoned it about 1/3 into it. It really bothered me... after many, many months (if not a year), I went back to it. There is so much to be annoyed by... and to be judgmental about... and to critique. Eventually, I began to appreciate the talented, evocative writing, the author’s ability to self-analyze and her extreme honesty in doing so. I started to admire her very dry, self-effacing humour and clever wit. I suppose any book that elicits that much reaction is ...more
Sherry
Jul 09, 2017 rated it liked it
I enjoyed this book. The first half was very interesting - how she became involved - how things fell apart, etc. For me the second part where she gets back with him - was not quite as compelling and I did find the end a bit abrupt. But perhaps that is how it all played out.
Teena in Toronto
Jul 19, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: canadian
In 2006, Diane met Shane when she began volunteering at a hot-meal program in Kingston. Shane was on an escorted temporary absence from a minimum-security prison ... he was serving a life sentence for second-degree murder. Within a few months, she and Shane, both in their 50s, became friends. A year later, they were in love and in a relationship.

Shane was eventually paroled and moves in the Diane. He was extremely needy and manipulative and totally disrupted her live. She makes her living as a w
...more
Alexis
Oct 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016
This book was a complete page turner for me. Author Diane Schoemperlen falls in love with a federal inmate that she meets at a soup kitchen. The man is a second degree murderer who has been in prison for 30 years.

She can see the good in him, and the two fall in love. But their relationship is complicated, and things become even worse when he is released from prison on parole and they try to live together.

Schoemperlen has an expert sense of pacing and knows what to reveal and what not to reveal.
...more
Amanda
Oct 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir
a highly engrossing book. I admire the author for sharing this painfully personal tale. i appreciated learning about the injustices & absurdities of Canada's prison system & seeing these humanized. the author's rendering of her state of mind & heart is what moved me the most. I felt a kindred sensibility. I never felt pity. I understood completely what she was going through & why. I loved Our Lady of the Lost and Found & had promised myself to read more from this gifted author. I know this book ...more
Louise
A remarkable account of a woman’s 6 year love affair with a prison inmate convicted of murder. We cannot control who we fall in love with but I still fail to understand how an intelligent woman could stay with this man after their horrendous 49 days living together when he was out on parole. He showed her his true colors: a mean, self-centered, temper-tantrum-throwing, needy, jealous, manipulative, scary and unbalanced man yet she still goes back to him for another 4 years (although this time in ...more
Allison
Jun 08, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, ereader
I've always been fascinated by the phenomenon of women falling in love with prisoners. This isn't one of the really baffling cases - where women claim to be in love with serial killers who they've only ever exchanged letters with - and actually when Schoemperlen describes her childhood and role models it's not all that surprising that she ends up in this relationship. Her assessment of it is fairly clear-eyed, although presumably it wasn't at the time, and the details about the Canadian criminal ...more
Nancy
Jun 13, 2016 rated it liked it
Fascinating story of a lady who falls in love with a convict while they both volunteered at St. Vincent DePaul. Hard to understand why she would put up with his verbal/emotional abuse, she being an intelligent woman, but sadly she did! "Never let loneliness lower your standards" is advice she should have heeded!
Danielle
Sep 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book! Diane is an excellent storyteller. This is about her life after she met and fell in love with an inmate. She lives in Kingston Ontario, home of the infamous Kingston Pen. She wrote about Canadian stuff, like fried baloney, and she also mentioned esophageal cancer, which I had last year. This is such an interesting story. Read it!
Sheri Robinson
Sep 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The honesty of Diane's words and her struggles with the bureaucracy and love are unforgettable. For all those that lined up for tickets to Kingston Penitentiary, you will want to read this book. It gives the best and truest idea of life in prison and what it does to people on the inside and on the outside. If this book doesn't make Diane even more famous it will be a crime.
Penny
Aug 08, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
Well respected award winning Canadian author inexplicably begins a self destructive relationship with a convict. Doesn't really understand it herself, and unfortunately couldn't make me understand it either. The story was interesting at first, but soon tried my patience.
Jane Mulkewich
Jul 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A brave book. An important book. Much to reflect on here, ranging from relationships in general, to how we institutionalize prisoners in our society. Highly recommended reading.
Nancy Runstedler
Jul 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
I was originally going to give this 3.5 but have bumped it up to 4 for Schoemperlen's bravery and the importance of this book. Not my favourite of hers but definitely still worth the read.
Ania
Feb 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
A story about a woman's experience with falling in love and with the Ontario corrections system. If anything this story is interesting to understand how the system works or fails.
Suzanne
Mar 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
I've been wanting to read this memoir for years, and I'm so glad I finally got around to it. I have always had difficulty relating to women who stay in bad relationships. I have always felt happier alone than in a relationship that isn't working. And, like most people, I've always been baffled by women who fall in love with men in prison for murder. I think I've come away from this memoir with more empathy and compassion for women like Diane Schoemperlen, who found herself in this situation when ...more
County Bookworm
Jan 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: canlit, bookclub
I really enjoyed this book and think it’s a great choice for bookclub. Even though it’s rare for me to really enjoy non-fiction, I couldn’t put this one down. Right from the start the author sets up a suspenseful tone. We know this is not going to end well, but we don’t know how bad it’s going to get.
I think that first and foremost this is a cautionary tale that reminds us to listen to our intuition and trust our inner voice when it’s telling us that someone or something is trouble and not in ou
...more
Thebruce1314
Feb 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: canadian-stuffs
This book was compelling to read, but in the way that a train wreck is compelling to watch. Kudos to the author for being so forthcoming with what was obviously a difficult chapter in her life, but the ominous foreshadowing kind of gave the game away from the get-go. The story is told in a series of episodes, and most of them ended with lines like, “little did I know I would have to relive that pain over and over,” or “I never thought I’d be the one crying during visitation.” The relationship se ...more
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Diane Schoemperlen, short-story writer, novelist, teacher, editor (b at Thunder Bay, Ont 9 July 1954). Diane Schoemperlen grew up in Thunder Bay, Ont, and attended Lakehead University. After graduating in 1976, she spent a summer studying at the Banff Centre, under such writers as W.O. MITCHELL and Alice MUNRO. Since 1986, she has focused on her writing career and has taught creative writing at sc ...more

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