Reading Matters

Hickory novelist writes about woman on death row

Grace is on death row for the murder of her infant son. Time is running out. She must find her estranged daughter Sophie to make sure she knows the truth.

Sophie returns to her hometown and discovers new evidence that could set her mother free. But that same evidence could also shatter her marriage.

This is the bare bones of a chilling and mesmerizing novel, “With Love from the Inside,” by Hickory’s Angela Pisel, who is also an occupational therapist and a life coach.

Pisel will read from her book at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Park Road Books. The event is free, and you’re invited.

I asked Pisel how she came to write this book, with its gritty details of “the inside.”

This is what she wrote in an email:

“Several years ago, I watched the news coverage of a man who’d spent almost 30 years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit. I stared at him while he wrapped his frail arms around those he’d thought he’d never be able to touch again. I could almost hear his erratically pumping heart struggling to balance all that had been taken from him with the promise of what’s to come.

“I dared to ask myself the question I imagine most of us would ask: What if that were me?

“Could I have endured? Could I have forgiven? Could I move on after so much was taken away from me?

“I began to study mothers who were on death row. Most of them freely admitting their part in their shocking crimes, and their poor decisions that landed them there. Normal-looking women, average enough to have worked beside me at the 7th grade bake-sale, carrying on conversations about fundraisers and the high price of school calculators. Would these women, if given the right circumstances— a sober mother to tuck them in at night, a father who kept his hands to himself—now be working in a cubicle someplace, instead of living in a cage with all the freedom afforded to a rabid animal?

“Or would they’ve made the same decisions, given two appropriately affectionate parents—their personalities and their fates pre-determined, so to speak? How did these women end up with an expiration date?

“These questions birthed my debut novel, ‘With Love from the Inside.’ It’s a story about a mother sent to death row, and a daughter left to navigate growing up without her. Both women are trying to figure out how they ended up where they did, and if they could ever find truth and forgiveness—before their time runs out.”