Good Behavior

For my next book in the FiftyFifty.Me challenge, I read GOOD BEHAVIOR, a memoir, by Nathan L. Henry, the story of his year in jail for armed robbery. This was an adult jail but Nate was only sixteen. He was no stranger to trouble and in this memoir, he alternates chapters among his year in jail, the year leading up to his crime, and scenes from earlier in his childhood that somewhat explain how a boy from a one stop-light town in rural Indiana finds himself in this predicament. It is gritty, graphic, and often disturbing. I found parts of it nearly impossible to read, but was drawn through it by the hope that he would find a way out. I won’t spoil it, but let’s just say that the jail librarian is instrumental.

What I took from this book, more than the story itself, was the way in which it was told. He maintained a primarily chronological structure in the alternating chapters so although the book jumps back and forth in time, the reader always knows where she is because he tells the different stories in a “this happened then this happened” order. Within this framework, there were a few flashbacks, but the story was carried forward by the passage of time. We knew he’d either get out of jail or be sent to prison. We knew he’d eventually be arrested and go to jail. We knew he grew to at least the age of sixteen. All of this pulls the reader along. We are also pulled along by the question of “what exactly happened?” since he teases us by referring to the day he set the school on fire and the night the police chased down he and his friend Phillip before he actually tells the events.

This book is not for the faint of heart, but it’s definitely worth the read.