Wednesday, May 20, 2009


by Michael Lister
Pineapple Press
ISBN: 1-56164-137-5 1997
296 pages

People should write about what they know. Michael Lister, who is a chaplain for the Florida prison system does exactly that. He writes about the system and society that he knows. Being a chaplain for a prison places anyone in an unusual situation. You can view the hierarchy of the established prison system and you can also observe the relationships of those who are restricted within the barriers. The two systems do not always work together; in fact, usually do not work smoothly together at all. It is the responsibility of the chaplain to work with the inmates, their families, and the staff who are assigned various duties. Also difficult with all these groups is not to allow yourself to be manipulated by either any of the groups, individuals, or the justice system. John Jordan, the chaplain, is horrified when he witnesses the death of a prisoner who was supposedly attempting to escape. This particular inmate’s blood happened to also be sprayed on him. The inmate had AIDS and John Jordan had an open cut on his leg. Because of his unique placement within the hierarchies, Jordan is assigned the job of investigating this death and the more he discovers, the less the entire situation makes sense. To add to this, Tom Daniels, Jordan’s former father-in-law is assigned to work with him in this investigation. There is still hostility with his former wife’s family regarding the dissolution of their marriage. The realism in this novel is apparent especially with regards to Jordan’s daily responsibilities. He is constantly overwhelmed with his duties and attempting to not be manipulated by the inmates, their families, or the staff requires constant attentiveness. He has personal problems such as being a recovering alcoholic and also being fearful of having AIDS. Since becoming a prison chaplain, he is barely surviving in a run-down trailer and having difficulty putting his life back together. This was the first published novel for Michael Lister. I have personally read other books of his that are also considering the prison system and all of them are hauntingly realistic. The characters have strong personal and vivid voices throughout the story. The story is well-organized and written so that it even has a throbbing pulse moving rapidly to the climax. Yes, it also interweaves the sex scenes and violence, as well as religion mixed into this novel. I can highly recommend POWER IN THE BLOOD and the other books of Michael Lister’s that I have reviewed ANOTHER QUIET NIGHT IN DESPARATION, and BLOOD OF THE LAMB. Michael Lister has a strong voice about part of our society that he has observed and his attempt to heal himself and others while questioning justice.

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