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Forgiving the Dead Man Walking: Only One Woman Can Tell the Entire Story Paperback – August 13, 2000


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Forgiving the Dead Man Walking: Only One Woman Can Tell the Entire Story + Dead Man Walking: The Eyewitness Account Of The Death Penalty That Sparked a National Debate
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Zondervan (August 13, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0310231876
  • ISBN-13: 978-0310231875
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #765,390 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Already familiar to readers from the movie Dead Man Walking, this horrifying crime story, related here by one of the victims, becomes an inspiring morality tale of one woman's redemption. In 1980, Morris, then a 16-year-old high school junior in tiny Madisonville, La., was parked with her boyfriend, Mark Brewster, along the Tchefuncte riverfront sipping a milkshake when two men suddenly appeared. Mark and Debbie were kidnapped: he was tortured and left for dead, while she was terrorized and raped repeatedly. With extraordinary presence of mind, she managed, incredibly, to talk her captors into letting her go. The aftershock, however, lasted for years: her relationship with Mark deteriorated; she dropped out of high school; and she suffered recurring claustrophobic fears. Her abductors, Robert Lee Willie and Joe Vaccaro, were captured, and Debbie aided the prosecution in its successful bid for the death penalty for Willie for the earlier rape/ murder of Faith Hathaway. After the trial, she discovered, "Justice doesn't really heal all the wounds." Her true path toward healing was hard won: She's often angry?at Sister Helen Prejean's attentions to Willie ("Where was the help I needed when I felt so alone?"), at her family, at God ("I'd found it easier to forgive Robert Willie than it was to forgive God"). But at the end of a journey that rings true and intensely human, she looks to her husband, son and new life and ceases to see herself as a victim, but instead as a survivor. (Sept.) FYI: Morris's story first appeared on a Frontline segment titled "Angel on Death Row."
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

For years after, she was known only as the "l6-year old from Madisonville," who had been talking with her boyfriend, Mark, when Robert Willie and Joseph Vaccaro kidnapped them. Mark was tortured and shot but survived, and Morris was repeatedly raped but eventually got out alive. Willie and Vaccaro were captured and Morris tried to move on with her life, eventually marrying and having children but always living with hurt and resentment. When the movie Dead Man Walking was made, she contacted Sister Helen Prejean (Dead Man Walking, LJ 6/15/93), the nun who counseled Robert Willie in prison and who was the focus of much of Debbie's anger. After speaking with Sister Helen, however, Morris was able to use her Christian beliefs to learn to forgive. Although Morris does include details of her awful ordeal, this is more a personal reflection on human nature than a traditional true-crime book. The writing is somewhat self-conscious and stilted in spots, but that only gives the story a much more human and vulnerable feel. For larger public libraries.?Christine A. Moesch, Buffalo & Erie Cty. P.L., NY
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Debbie's story is so honest.
SAH
You'll learn that hating "anyone" is really hurting you the most.
David
I remember this crime all too well.
Cori

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 27 people found the following review helpful By R. Martin on December 8, 2004
Format: Paperback
If you have read Dead Man Walking, you really MUST read this book also! It is the other side of the story. Please consider reading it.

This book is written by the victim Debbie Morris. She takes you through her life (before and after the crime) and how she went on after being the victim of such a horrific ordeal. She ultimately found peace by forgiving Robert Willie. The parents of another girl that had been victimized and murdered by Robert Willie were the opposite of forgiving - they were filled with rage, hate and bitterness. The contrast between Debbie's response and their response really stood out to me. Debbie found peace and they did not...

This book also gives a different perspective on Robert Willie than the one given by Sister Helen Prejean in Dead Man Walking. Debbie portrays Willie as being the one in control. He was domineering, the leader, and heavily influenced his partner in crime Joe Vaccaro. In Prejean's book, Willie is portrayed rather the opposite!! (Should we be surprised that someone on deathrow might not honestly describe themselves?)

Overall, this is a well-written book about the power of a forgiving spirit. Please consider reading it to get both sides of the story of Dead Man Walking.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Betty Burks on December 10, 2004
Format: Hardcover
As a sixteen year old victim of rape, torture, and attempted murder by Robert Willie in Louisiana, Debbie Ceuvas survived the brutality this killer used to subdue her during the kidnapping. After fifteen years of remembering the nightmarish ordeal, she was able to overcome the trauma and start speaking out.

Her appearance on the t.v. show, 'Frontline,' to tell what really happened to her as opposed to Hollywood's version of 'Dead Man Walking' proved a pivotal point in her recovery. It served as a turning point whereby she was invited to speak at conferences where other participants had endured their own form of confinement and torture.

At the Cleveland, Ohio, conference in 1997, titled "Forgiveness in a Violent Society,' she shared the platform with Beirut hostage Terry Anderson. At seminars directed by Terry Hargrave, a therapist and psychology professor from Amarillo, Texas, she learned the steps to inner healing through forgiveness: insight, understanding, remorse, compensation for past hurts, through two areas, salvage and restoration.

Though she was never mentioned in the film, her testimony led to Willie's conviction. In FORGIVE AND FORGET by Lewis Smedes, she found the section, "Forgiving Monsters" relevant to her experience. Refusing to forgive meant submerging the pain, shame, and self-pity.

Forgiveness seems so hard and you wonder, "Is it really worth it?" She learned that by forgiving that human monster, she was able to trust again -- to experience the giving and receiving of love. She married Conner Morris and is now a mother.

She writes, "People often ask how I feel about the death penalty now?" Her response: "Justice didn't do a thing to heal me. Forgiveness did.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 4, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I just recently returned from a convention of youth workers where Debbie Morris was one of our General Session speakers. To hear her story, then read it, is a powerful experience. When she spoke, there were close to 5,000 people in an exhibition hall which served as our main staging location -- as she spoke, you could have heard a feather drop in the room. Whether hearing Debbie speak, or reading her book, issues surrounding forgiveness are almost sure to surface. Please read this book for yourself, and for those in your life who need to hear this message of the power of forgivness.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Sarah Sypkes on February 18, 2000
Format: Hardcover
i thought this was one of the most honest, vulnerable stories i have read. the author, debbie morris, has a faith that was tested beyond belief. her account of the traumatic events in her life at the age of 16 open the reader completely to her world. though written from a reflective point of view, it is written so that i felt like i was experiencing it with her, though i realize i hardly have the right to think that.
anyone who wants to better understand or relate to a friend who is going through similar trauma should read this without a doubt. she is brave and would inspire anyone in facing reality and finding real forgiveness, within themself, and for the offender.
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21 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Cori on July 11, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I remember this crime all too well. My cousin (Mark) was Debbie's boyfriend. I was only 9 at the time, but I remember the frantic phone call from my aunt and my dad joining other members of our family as they drove through town looking for Debbie and Mark. I will never forget overhearing the details of the wake of horror that Robert Willie left behind.

Debbie's book is full of courage, honor, and forgiveness. If should be in every victim assistance program and every victim of crime should read it. If you've read Dead Man Walking, you owe it to yourself to read this as well as Mike Varnado's book (he was the investigator who found Faith Hathaway's body). Helen Prejean cannot tell you about the "real" Robert Willie... only his survivor can.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 27, 2001
Format: Paperback
My sister gave me this book, and I found it to be one of the best books on a person personal journey from being victimized to forgiving the victimizer. It portrayed what Biblical forgiveness really means-it isn't saying what the victimizer did was okay, or that you have to be best friends with him, it simply means that you no longer hold anger in your heart, and will not let what happen to you grow to bitterness. Her journey wasn't easy, but her words were very genuine. I think this book is a great lesson in forgiveness to anyone, but I think any woman or man who has been the victim of a brutal crime should read this book.
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