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Life After Death Hardcover – September 18, 2012

4.5 out of 5 stars 563 customer reviews

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Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal
The bestselling author of "Encyclopedia an Ordinary Life" returns with a literary experience that is unprecedented, unforgettable, and explosively human. Hardcover | Kindle book
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Editorial Reviews


A New York Times Bestseller
A Los Angeles Times Bestseller
A USA Today Bestseller
A Wall Street Journal Bestseller
A Kirkus Reviews “Best of 2012” nonfiction selection


“Damien Echols spent eighteen years on death row for murders he did not commit. Somehow, in the depths of his unspeakable nightmare, he found the courage and strength not only to survive, but to grow, to create, to forgive, and to understand. Life After Death is a brilliant, haunting, painful, and uplifting narrative of a hopeless childhood, a wrongful conviction, a brutal incarceration, and the beginning of a new life.”

—John Grisham

“Wrongfully imprisoned by willfully ignorant cops, prosecutors and judge, Damien Echols draws on all his wits and his unique view of humanity to survive eighteen years on death row. My admiration for him, and the strength of his spirit, increases with every page.”

 —Sir Peter Jackson, Academy Award-winning director, producer and screenwriter


“I am in awe of Damien's ability to write so beautifully, with such ease, humor and honesty—this is inspired storytelling, a wonderful book!”

 —Fran Walsh, Academy Award-winning screenwriter, composer and producer


“The life of Damien Echols is a journey similar to that of the metal that becomes a samurai’s sword. Heated and pounded until it becomes hardened, it can hold its edge for centuries. It is incredible that Damien endured and survived one of the most tragic miscarriages of American justice, and emerged such a centered, articulate and extraordinary man and writer. Life After Death proves that he paid dearly for his wisdom.”

—Henry Rollins


“Exceptional memoir by the most famous of the West Memphis Three. [B]are facts alone would make for an interesting story. However, Echols is at heart a poet and mystic, and he has written not just a quickie one-off book to capitalize on a lurid news story, but rather a work of art that occasionally bears a resemblance to the work of Jean Genet. A voracious reader all his life, Echols vividly tells his story, from his impoverished childhood in a series of shacks and mobile homes to his emergence after half a lifetime behind bars as a psychically scarred man rediscovering freedom in New York City. The author also effectively displays his intelligence and sensitivity, qualities the Arkansas criminal justice system had no interest in recognizing during Echols’ ordeal. Essential reading.”

Kirkus Reviews (starred)


“This is a stunning piece of work. Such hope while faced with injustice. Damien teaches us how to live.”

—Eddie Vedder


“[Echols’] case garnered worldwide attention, but [his] memoir is about as far away from a publicity-seeking I-was-wronged story as possible. The author opts for a meatier, and certainly more haunting, account of his life behind bars, coupled with flashbacks to his childhood....Echols is a talented writer, and when the book dips into his own spiritual and philosophical beliefs...it achieves the kind of emotional resonance that many similar books lack....A tragic and often disturbing story."



"Damien Echols suffered a shocking miscarriage of justice. A nightmare few could endure. An innocent man on death row for more than eighteen years, abused by the very system we all fund. His story will appall, fascinate, and render you feeble with tears and laughter. A brilliant memoir to battle with literary giants of the calibre of Jean Genet, Gregory David Roberts, and Dostoevsky."

—Johnny Depp


“[T]his is an eloquent, even bitterly lyrical, portrayal of how an innocent man can slip through the cracks of the legal system and struggle to survive. Compelling and deeply moving, in the tradition of Helen Prejean’s Dead Man Walking and Norman Mailer’s The Executioner’s Song, this memoir will appeal to a wide audience.”

Library Journal (starred)


“In this searing, finely wrought memoir, Echols recalls his poverty-stricken childhood, the trial of the West Memphis 3, and the harsh realities of life on death row … The most affecting sections are Echols’s philosophical musings on all he has lost, his thoughts often influenced by Zen Buddhism. In one journal entry that survived the guards’ purge, Echols contemplates what he misses the most while in prison. The answer is a heart-wrenching and simple commentary on American prison life: ‘In the end it’s not the fruit I miss most... I miss being treated like a human being.’”

Publisher’s Weekly (starred)


“[A] tale of romance, resilience, and the power of the written word.”
—Stephanie Palumbo, O, The Oprah Magazine

“Echols is a writer whose talent is commensurate with the task of telling this story....The man who has emerged from death row at last is not quite a hero, but he’s something far more interesting: an artist—and, most definitely, well worth meeting.”

—Laura Miller, Salon.com

“Gripping…Echols has already lived a remarkable life, one forged in tragedy and all manner of iniquity. That he is able to write so movingly about the many trials he endured speaks volumes about his intellect and character.”

Jesse Singal, The Boston Globe

About the Author

Damien Echols was born in 1974 and grew up in Mississippi, Tennessee, Maryland, Oregon, Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas. At age eighteen he was wrongfully convicted of murder, along with Jason Baldwin and Jessie Miskelley, Jr. Echols received a death sentence and spent almost eighteen years on Death Row, until he, Baldwin, and Misskelley were released in 2011. The West Memphis Three have been the subject of Paradise Lost, a three-part documentary series produced by HBO, and West of Memphis, a documentary produced by Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh. Echols is the author of a self-published memoir, Almost Home. He and his wife, Lorri Davis, live in New York City.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Blue Rider Press; 1st edition (September 18, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399160205
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399160202
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.4 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (563 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #467,168 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By S. Henderson on September 18, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'm not the book reviewer in my family but this book moved me so much that I felt compelled to post a review.
The broad range of emotions I felt while reading "Life After Death" is unlike anything I have ever experienced from written words. It was truly emotionally draining. Laughter, hate, disgust, sadness, hope, happiness, joy, wonder, amazement... Maybe it is because I have followed the case for years, read every book published, court transcripts, watched the media coverage as well as the films. I feel close to these men I have never met. You would think knowing the ending, I would not have broken down in sobs, but I did. There are many realities out there that we go through life without ever knowing...
It blew my mind that this man, that failed two grades in school, never graduated, was wrongly convicted of murder and spent 18 years, pretty much in solitary confinement could write like he does. His mind is brilliant and his writing will move you. When he writes of his love for his now wife it will melt you, when he describes his hell (prison) you will feel despair and hopelessness...
"Life After Death" is not about the case. It is about Damien's life before and during prison and just a little after being released (it went to editing only 6 months after his release from death row). It is a book that will make you want to change the prison system and leave you wondering how such an injustice could happen in America (and does on a regular basis).
Read this book! It is worth your time. It just might change your life or at the very least make you pause and wonder how you can help right such injustices. It will cause you to take notice of how very blessed you are and as Damien hopes make you aware of all the "magick" around you.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I just would like to start out by saying I own Damien's first book "Almost Home." If you were fortunate enough to read that book, the first half of Life After Death is a condensed version of Almost Home. So I was very familiar with the stories of what happened to Damien growing up. I honestly wish for everyone who is interested in Damien and his life that they would republish Almost Home. His stories of his life before jail go into so much more detail then they do in Life After Death. As I was reading his stories of growing up, you can't help but feel sorry for him. He grew up in the worst possible poverty, and was surrounded by family who should've done a better job caring for him and loving him. Not only did I feel sad for him, but I was sickened by how he was treated and what he had to endure as a kid. And then to think that this was the better part of his life before being arrested. It just makes you so grateful for everything you have in life. And you realize how important your family really are to you.

Into the 2nd half of the book Damien tells some prison stories about the convicts he was housed with, and things that went on while he was incarcerated. I will admit, I was worried Damien might go into graphic detail about the physical pain he endured while in prison. (Having read the letters that would be posted from him on a WM3 website while he was in jail, there was stuff he told that just made you sick to your stomach.) Don't get me wrong, he does explain how frustrating and hard it is to survive, but you're able to get through it and read on.

The book also publishes those letters that I've read through the years on the website while Damien was incarcerated.
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For me, this story was compelling for a couple of reasons. I have read most every book, blog, article written about the WM3, including a book written from John Mark Byers point of view. To be able to read Damien's journey, from his perspective, his own experiences...to see behind the iron curtain that was his prosecution and incarceration...was fascinating and emotional.

Everything I knew about Damien had been what I saw in documentaries or read from other authors. To learn about his childhood, and it's aftermath, in his own words, felt deeply personal and I could not put this (Kindle) book down. I was struck at how eloquent and well spoken Damien is, and he's what I would call a natural story teller. He's clearly a complex, intelligent, and spirited man, who has suffered many life challenges, both pre-trial, and most certainly post-trial.

Using a compassionate voice, full of introspection, Damien shares stories of his life, from the horrible, to the humorous. I appreciated that Damien didn't dive into the details of the trial, as the end of the book contains a fairly inclusive exploration of the evidence/trial, convictions, and 2011 release.

This memoir is one that will stay with you, after you read the last page.
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I literally finished reading "Life After Death" just seconds ago. I feel compelled to share my thoughts immediately because Damien Echols' harrowing book deserves nothing less than instant respect and admiration.

I became aware of his ghastly plight in 2010, while watching an episode of 48 Hrs. on CBS. My wife and I were fully prepared to sneer at the woman (Lorri Davis) who had married the child-killer (Damien Nichols) behind bars; how sad, how gross, how utterly pathetic. After all, he and two others had been thoroughly convicted in a court of law of carrying out one of the most heinous crimes imaginable. Surely, those who wear a law enforcement badge and carry a gavel and 12 jurors would know what's best and who's really guilty, right?

However, by the end of the program we were both gasping out loud and practically screaming at our television set: what an ungodly nightmare! Is this really happening, in our country?! Can't anyone with half a brain cell figure out that THESE GUYS DIDN'T DO IT?!

Horrified, but energized, I dove for my computer, looking up anything and everything devoted to the case. I went over every single court document that is available online. I listened to hours of recorded testimony. I read "Devil's Knot" and watched both Paradise Lost documentaries in slack-jawed horror. I told anyone who would listen about the case, and quickly learned that there were so many more who were as outraged as I. Not given to causes, per se, I was surprised to find myself wearing a "Free The West Memphis 3" t-shirt, and was asked about it wherever I went.
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