In the fall of 1999, psychologist Sophia Beckman is compelled by the court to give testimony on behalf of a death row inmate that results in his sentence being overturned. Haunted by secrets from her past, she avoids the media spotlight as much as possible, but soon, other prisoners' families come seeking her assistance. One family in particular, the wife, children, and brother of Jarrett Capshaw, is especially insistent. Forty-one days ago Jarrett's request to die was granted by the State of Texas, and he became a dead man walking, a man they call a volunteer.
Jarrett's crimes were unusual, involving the theft of precious Mayan antiquities. Murder was never part of the plan, but murder is what happened. He pulled the trigger, and as little as he feels prepared for it, as much as he struggles with matters of the soul, he's ready to die. It is the only way his family and the families of his victims will be free to move on. While Jarrett labors to find the words to say good-bye to those he has loved, Sophia finds herself drawn into a relationship with his wife and oldest son. It is Jarrett's family she can't resist and there will be a price to pay. But not even Sophia could have foreseen the outcome when the brutal truth is exposed, the unalloyed facts that, incredibly, will deliver Jarrett's fate straight into her hands.
The Volunteer is a story about families, how they are made, and how in one single, horrifying instant, they can be broken. It is a story about mothers and the lies they tell to protect their children, to keep them from being hurt. But what happens when the truth comes out anyway and nothing and no one is spared? Sometimes the truth has the power to break your heart, and in Sophia's case it will also endanger her freedom and threaten everything she has ever believed about her life.Read an excerpt (pdf)
"While this book was about so much more than death row it seemed to me the author nailed it perfectly when she described the emotions of both the condemned and his family. This book delves into the consequences when women bury their heads in the sand to avoid confrontation. I read tons of books weekly, but this is one that will stand out in my mind for a long time."
"The author is extremely insightful about the way guilt, fear and regret can ruin lives; and about how forgiveness of others and self can redeem torn lives. The lushness of this book would have had six stars from me if it were only possible. I'll definitely read this one again and recommend it to others."
"Once I started reading I could not put this book down. I am considering recommending it for my book club. It is an interesting story and I think the subject matter would certainly generate a lot of discussion."