In the Sanctuary of Outcasts
In the Sanctuary of Outcasts
By Neil White
William Morrow, Hardcover, 9780061351600, 336pp.
Publication Date: June 1, 2009
Daddy is going to camp. Thats what I told my children. A child psychologist suggested it. Words like prison and jail conjure up dangerous images for children, she explained. But it wasnt camp . . .
Neil White, a journalist and magazine publisher, wanted the best for those he lovednice cars, beautiful homes, luxurious clothes. He loaned money to family and friends, gave generously to his church, and invested in his communitybut his bank account couldnt keep up. Soon White began moving money from one account to another to avoid bouncing checks. His world fell apart when the FBI discovered his scheme and a judge sentenced him to serve eighteen months in a federal prison.
But it was no ordinary prison. The beautiful, isolated colony in Carville, Louisiana, was also home to the last people in the continental United States disfigured by leprosy. Hidden away for decades, this small circle of outcasts had forged a tenacious, clandestine community, a fortress to repel the cruelty of the outside world. It is here, in a place rich with history, where the Mississippi River briefly runs north, amid an unlikely mix of leprosy patients, nuns, and criminals, that Whites strange and compelling journey begins. He finds a new best friend in Ella Bounds, an eighty-year-old African American double amputee who had contracted leprosy as a child. She and the other secret people, along with a wacky troop of inmates, help White rediscover the value of simplicity, friendship, and gratitude.
Funny and poignant, In the Sanctuary of Outcasts is an uplifting memoir that reminds us all what matters most.
“Narrated in an engaging, affable voice with self-deprecating humor, IN THE SANCTUARY OF OUTCASTS is a great American story of personal transformation that leaves White -- and ourselves -- forever changed.”
-Tom Franklin, author of Smonk
“An impressively detailed and unsentimental memoir...funny and straightforward.”
-Memphis Commercial Appeal
“A moving story of growth and transformation. Among the lost, [White] found humility, beauty, courage—and himself. ”
-Dallas Morning News
IN THE SANCTUARY OF OUTCASTS was a rare treat for me as I not only learned about this extraordinary place, only whispered about when I was a child, but, even better, was reminded again of what really matters in this life.”
-Robert Hicks, author of The Widow of the South
“[Neil White] offers a memoir of personal transformation and a thoroughly engaging look at the social, economic, racial, and other barriers that separate individuals that harden, dissolve, and reconfigure themselves when people are involuntarily thrust together over long periods.”
-Booklist (starred review)
“A meaningful look at the trajectory of one man’s life and his chance to change its direction. Worth reading and discussing...a particularly intriguing choice for reading groups.”
-The Mississippi Episcopalian
“This memoir represents an atonement persuasively made in an unlikely setting by an accomplished and engaging writer. ”
“Vibrant and readable.”
“IN THE SANCTUARY OF OUTCASTS is more than a memoir. It’s most importantly a testament to the patients at Carville and the life lessons they gave and White took.”
“Neil White in his luminous memoir IN THE SANCTUARY OF OUTCASTS explicates his own path to redemption. White brings to life a wacky bunch of characters who help him remember what is best about himself. His story is unique and deeply felt: I enjoyed this book immensely!”
-Darcey Steinke author of Easter Everywhere and Milk
“Brisk, ironic and perceptive, White’s introspective memoir puts a magnifying glass to a flawed life, revealing that all of life is to be savored and respected.”
“A surprisingly gentle, sometimes hilarious memoir.”
“An earnest chronicle written with equal parts enlightenment and atonement.”
“White’s memoir continues to surprise as it presents a witty, well-rendered narrative of redemption and enlightenment. Readers who enjoy clever, off-beat memoirs will devour this in one sitting.”
“A remarkable story of a young man’s loss of everything he deemed important, his imprisonment in a place that would terrify anyone, and his ultimate discovery that redemption can be taught by society’s most dreaded outcasts.”
“At once surreal and grittily naturalistic, funny and poignant, White’s tale is fascinating and full of universal resonance. And, not incidentally, White is a splendid writer, adept at both creating a scene and illuminating the human heart. This is a book that will endure.”
-Pulitzer Prize–winner Robert Olen Butler
“White wastes no time getting to the hurt, and once he takes you there, you’ll be riveted. A searing tale of trouble, it’s also about finding a time and a place in which to lay the groundwork for a new life. A fine memoir and one I highly recommend.”
-Steve Yarbrough, James and Coke Hallowell Professor of Creative Writing Coordinator of the MFA Program English Department California State University
“A wonderfully bizarre and entertaining memoir of jailhouse redemption—by turns hilarious, astonishing, and, when all is said and done, deeply moving.”
-John Berendt, author of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
“Leprosy and white collar crime in one dynamic book? Neil White, a writer with a multiple mission, knits two fascinating and unfortunate stories into one powerful narrative that is informative, heart-breaking and highly compelling. White writes with clarity, sensitivity and unforgettable passion.”
-Lee Gutkind, Editor, Creative Nonfiction magazine and author, Almost Human: Making Robots Think