Leslie Schwartz’s powerful, skillfully woven memoir of redemption and reading, as told through the list of books she read as she served a 90 day jail sentence.
In 2014, novelist Leslie Schwartz was sentenced to 90 days in Los Angeles County Jail for a DUI and battery of an officer. It was the most harrowing and holy experience of her life.
Following a 414-day relapse into alcohol and drug addiction after more than a decade clean and sober, Schwartz was sentenced and served her time with only six months’ sobriety. The damage she inflicted that year upon her friends, her husband, her teenage daughter, and herself was nearly impossible to fathom. Incarceration might have ruined her altogether, if not for the stories that sustained her while she was behind bars – both the artful tales in the books she read while there, and, more immediately, the stories of her fellow inmates. With classics like Edith Wharton’s Ethan Frome to contemporary accounts like Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken, Schwartz’s reading list is woven together with visceral recollections of both her daily humiliations and small triumphs within the county jail system. Through the stories of others – whether rendered on the page or whispered in a jail cell – she learned powerful lessons about how to banish shame, use guilt for good, level her grief, and find the lost joy and magic of her astonishing life.
Told in vivid, unforgettable prose, The Lost Chapters uncovers the nature of shame, rage, and love, and how instruments of change and redemption come from the unlikeliest of places.