4 out of 4 stars
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Reaching the Shore, in its own words, is a story of survival, courage and endurance. Davin J. Douma was 16 years old when he was accused of murder. He was subsequently tried as an adult and sentenced to life in prison. Bonnie J. Hall is his mother and she intended the book to be a 'non-fiction novel.' She writes about her life while focusing on Davin’s story and its impact upon the family. Davin’s writing is scattered throughout but most of the narrative is from Bonnie’s point of view. When I picked up the book I thought it was going to be about a mother making excuses for her son’s criminal behavior. What I got from the book is so profound it cannot easily be explained in a short review.
Some of the writing was quite beautiful. The parts I most enjoyed were the prologue, the various descriptions of childhood, and what ensued after the final parole hearing. I particularly appreciated Bonnie's ability in writing descriptions (detailed and evocative but not too long or boring). The description of solitary confinement was particularly effective. This book really opened my eyes to the reality of prison and the necessity of prison reform.
There were a few minor issues. I was confused early on when Bonnie suddenly threw in a story about a future husband while she was married to someone else. I couldn’t understand why her daughter chose not to live with her and why Bonnie couldn’t remember visiting her son when he was ill. A couple of chapters were slower in pace and harder to read. Despite these issues, the book seemed professionally edited. I could only find one grammar mistake, which involved incorrect word usage.
This book deserves to be read widely, however the violent and brutal reality of prison may overwhelm some sensitive readers. At a mundane level, the book would suit a mature reader interested in the concept of justice, with particular reference to American criminal justice and incarceration. I see the story in a more spiritual light: an advanced soul handling a particularly difficult life with dignity and grace. It showed me that how you handle adversity and endure suffering is indicative of the true nature of your character.
As I see it, Reaching the Shore is the story of a man who was let down by everyone: his family, his friends, his peers, his lawyer, his counsellor, the justice system, the prison system and the parole system. What he was able to accomplish, while being imprisoned in a harsh and violent environment, is remarkable and inspiring. If the revelation on page 312 of my copy is indeed true, then my opinion is that Davin should never have been sent to prison in the first place. This is not a story I will forget easily. It spoke to me at a soul level and haunted me for days. I have not read a book this significant for a very long time. I hope that more people will give it a chance. It should lead to some interesting (and polarizing) discussions. I rate this book 4 out of 4 stars.The real trick in life is not coming up with the answer that no one else sees. It isn’t finding a solution to a problem that only appears insurmountable. It is not about keeping a smile on your face no matter the personal destruction. Most meaningful problems in life have no solution. The question is not what you should do, but how much you can take.
I call it endurance. What you can endure is a true measure of your character. How much hell can you put up with? How much pain can you suffer?
–Davin J. Douma
Reaching the Shore
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