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Sweet Hell on Fire: A Memoir of the Prison I Worked In and the Prison I Lived In Paperback – November 1, 2012
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"If you read one memoir this winter, make it 'Sweet Hell on Fire." - Stevens Point Journal
"Sara Lunsford romances readers with softness sometimes, making us chuckle, making us double-take. Then she grabs us and shakes hard, until we can't do anything but gasp. ... 'Sweet Hell on Fire' is a book to get your hands on." - Bookworm Sez, Best Book of 2012
"A blunt, angry, and very important book." - Christian Science Monitor
"A fascinating, frightening lens into a simmering underworld most of us would rather not think about." - Shelf Awareness
From the Back Cover
But I was a good officer.
Sara Lunsford helped cage the worst of the worst, from serial killers to sex criminals. At the end of every day, when she walked out of the prison gate, she had to try and shed the horrors she witnessed. But the darkness invaded every part of her life, no matter how much she tried to immerse herself in a liquor bottle. She couldn't hide from the things that hurt her, the things that made her bleed, the things that still rise up in the dark and choke her.
With a magnetic, raw voice that you won't soon forget, Sweet Hell on Fire grabs you by the throat and doesn't let go. It's a hardscrabble climb from rock bottom to the new ground of a woman who understands the meaning of sacrifice, the joy of redemption and the quiet haven to be found in hope.
Top Customer Reviews
As for-profit prisons give the US the world's highest rate of incarceration, it's worth knowing the effects on the people inside on both sides of the bars. Lunsford repeats the old guards' wisdom: for the first year you're not suited to the work -- and after the first year, you're not suited for anything else. She identifies with the men like her father and husband, who take no guff from anyone and achieves the coveted designation of "hard ass" -- the prisoners call her "Sarge" with respect. But she also sees the cost of the rigid system. It's all about choices, like everything. Lunsford has some hard choices to make.
This was...anything but. Lots of bleak, horrifying moments, full of filth and nastiness and the worst people have to offer. Interspersed with some truly hilarious, laugh-out-loud, utterly inappropriate moments of dark humor, the sort of humor one can only find when it's either laugh or cry.
This isn't a pretty book, or a casual read, and it's a little disjointed and freewheeling in places, as the author works through some serious stuff. But it's an unflinching, unvarnished, unapologetic look at what really goes down in the corrections system. You want to see what it's like from the CO (Correction Officer) point of view? Here you go.
Warning: this book contains adult language, adult situations, and all sorts of nightmare fuel, and isn't for the faint of heart. That's not a criticism, that's just how it is.
Real, raw and honest, this personal journey was important to share with the world. More people than we think go through similar situations and think they are alone. But we are not. Kudos to the author for sharing her story. I laughed, I cried, and I'm thrilled she is creating her "happy ever after".
Having been one of the few women in the IT profession back when dinosaurs walked the earth, I know what it's like to have to prove yourself to your male co-workers and to male customers who didn't believe that women knew anything about computers. My favorite question at the time was from a customer whose issue was escalated to me because none of the guys could fix it: "Honey, can you put me through to a real technician?" I can't imagine working in a maximum security prison as a woman where at any moment anyone is vulnerable to Very Bad Things. Ms. Lunsford's window into her job, its idiosyncracies, her struggles, and everything in-between is well worth the read. Highly recommended.
As I read each day in Sara's life, the book made me laugh, want to cry, and think about the journey we all have to walk to find ourselves and love ourselves. Sometimes we forget that we don't all come from the same place. We look at situations and rationale from a jaded perspective. Sweet Hell on Fire gives us a mirror into a world filled with darkness, but a path lit with spark of kindness, respect, and love. It might not be formed in the molds of our own lives, but clearly present. You notice it in the inmates Ms. Lunsford interacted with in the correctional facility, the strained relationship with her family, the relationship with her husband and children, but most of all in her descriptions of herself.
Sweet Hell on Fire is a uncensored view into Ms. Lunsford's life. It's not pretty. The language is brutal. But it is an honest, intriguing, and well written read. Not for the faint of heart, but definitely an excellent read.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Beyond powerful. Gripping, enlightening, reflective and emotional. I just want to hug her. I'm not really a memoir type of reader, but this.... Read morePublished 1 day ago by Erin Rodgers
I just spent the last three days being taken on an emotional roller coaster through a year in the life of Sara Lunsford, a correctional officer who overcame herself and a traumatic... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Jaclyn M.
This is an amazing story of coming out the other side, of making the decision to be happy. There are two parts to this story work and the rest of her life. Read morePublished 6 months ago by D. Antonio
Very insightful! Don't expect it to be the 'end all' book on corrections officers' perspectives in the U.S. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Cait Scherer
Very interesting read but the story seems to jump around to keep you thinking but very good read otherwisePublished 13 months ago by beverly minster
Enjoyed the inside scoop on what life as a prison guard is like.Published 15 months ago by Barbara Christensen
I thought this was a very well written book and an excellent story of not only personal growth, but also of what goes on behind prison gates. I appreciate that Sara told her story.Published 16 months ago by B. Stephan