From one of the greatest legal injustices of our time sprang one of the most unlikely—and unforgettable—love stories. The man you are about to meet was just 18 years old when he was condemned to death for a crime he didn’t commit. The woman you are about to meet was a landscape architect living in New York city when when she wandered into the showing of a film, and she left forever changed.
For anyone who followed the case of the West Memphis Three and read Damien Echols’s New York Times bestselling memoir Life After Death, there is one lingering question: who was the woman courageous enough to fall in love with him and marry him while he remained on death row? Lorri Davis was a landscape architect living in New York when she saw Paradise Lost, a documentary about the three young men imprisoned in Arkansas for an unspeakable crime they didn’t commit. When her original letter arrived in Echols’s cell in 1996, hers were some of the first kind words of support he had heard. Drawing from over fifteen years of correspondence, YOURS FOR ETERNITY: A Love Story on Death Row is an intimate look at their unlikely tale.
Beginning as an exchange of letters between two distant worlds and becoming a remarkable story of marriage, love, and salvation, YOURS FOR ETERNITY traces the development of Davis and Echols’s relationship in alternating epistolary voices. The letters quickly moved from inquisitive formality (“I hope it doesn’t freak you out to have someone that you don’t even know mooning over you so much,” wrote Davis) to a deeper exchange of ideas and intimacy (“You made me so happy today that there is no way I could express it, because I read some things in your letters that said things that I wanted to say but couldn’t bring myself to say,” Echols wrote.) As Davis and Echols described their worlds for each other, they broke down seemingly impossible barriers between them in order to create a world they could both inhabit. Watching movies at the same hour and sharing the same books became ways to be together, as did their “moon water” ritual (capturing the light of the moon in a glass of water and drinking it at an agreed-upon time). Under circumstances too restrictive for most of us to imagine, Davis and Echols found a way to learn each other’s “magick,” and to fall in love.
By turns spiritual and erotic, Davis and Echols’s correspondence recounts hopes and dreams for their future that were buoyant and optimistic, yet checked constantly by the reality of Echols’s sentence and a total lack of the physical intimacy most new couples take for granted. “There is nothing in the world that I want to do more than to be able to hold you while you sleep,” wrote Echols, but his years in prison would continue to stack up and he remained on death row for far longer than either anticipated. Their letters go on to describe how they confronted and overcame personal challenges and heartbreaks – issues of trust, fear and doubt that would occur in any relationship – along with enormous financial strain and frustrating legal complications stemming from the ongoing case for exoneration. Eventually Davis left her life in New York behind and moved as close to Echols as she could, where she juggled the daunting tasks of maintaining a low local profile while managing the ever-growing international swell of support for the case.
YOURS FOR ETERNITY is a collection of love letters, but it is also a meeting of minds and of will. Davis channeled her strength and resources over the years to ensure that the man she fell in love with was able to rejoin the world. Echols was finally released in 2011. Their account of how they kept their marriage alive and evolving is both moving and miraculous; an inspiring and romantic story of a love that was capable of sustaining two people through the depths of hell and back.
Damien Echols and Lorri Davis met in 1996, and were married in a Buddhist ceremony at Tucker Maximum Security Unit in Tucker, Arkansas, in 1999. As part of the “West Memphis Three,” Echols was falsely accused of murder and spent nearly eighteen years on death row until his release in 2011. Echols is the author of the New York Times bestselling memoir, Life After Death (2012). Lorri Davis was born and raised in West Virginia. For more than a decade, Davis spearheaded a full-time effort toward her husband’s release from prison, which encompassed all aspects of the legal case and forensic investigation; she was instrumental in raising funds for the defense and, with Echols, served as producer of the documentary West of Memphis. Echols and Davis live in New York.
Rita Zoey Chin was born into a world that roared: a Queens apartment near JFK Airport where the power of the planes that rattled the walls was matched only by the power of her neglectful parents whose violence and out-of-control nature left her with no choice but to run away. Today, Rita is no longer a girl without a home but instead a successful writer and the wife of a promising surgeon. How did she go from hitting rock-bottom to creating a meaningful life for herself? In LET THE TORNADO COME: A Memoir, Rita candidly shares how she found happiness after her tumultuous upbringing, the debilitating panic attacks that threatened to take it all away in her thirties, and the beacon of light that reassured her that she’d survive once more: her horse, Claret.
Rita first ran at age eleven. In the years that followed, where she was headed wasn’t something she knew until she was already on the move: sometimes a friend’s house, sometimes a hidden stairwell off an alleyway, sometimes strangers’ beds. By thirteen, she was out of the house for good and soon found herself a ward of the court, being sent from one institution to another and running away from most, back to the streets and an adult world of drugs and sex that threatened to consume her. At nineteen, after a three-month-long cocaine addiction, she finally hit rock bottom. Realizing she had to turn her life around or else, she called upon one of her few cherished childhood memories: a herd of horses galloping across a field, beautiful and free. The sound of their hooves hitting the ground never left her and came to represent hope as she began piecing her life back together; the horses comforted her the same way they did whenever her mother kicked her out of the house or her father raised his hand, even during those long, crazy nights spend on the run. Little did she know then just how important her connection with horses would be in the years to come.
Fast-forward just over a decade, and Chin is no longer a girl without a home but instead a prize-winning poet and happily married; she loves her life and is proud of what she’s accomplished since her years as a runaway. Without any warning, however, her life is turned upside-down when she is besieged by terrifying panic attacks that worsen with every passing moment. Within weeks, she is incapacitated with fear—literally afraid of her own shadow. Realizing her hard-won happiness is in jeopardy if she doesn’t seek help, she turns to a variety of treatments to help ease her anxiety. Eventually, she finds an emotional pillar in Norm, the first therapist to reassure her that the events of her childhood were not her fault. As he helps her through her panic attacks in a way no conventional therapy or doctor (including her husband) had prior, Rita simultaneously finds solace in an unexpected friendship with another troubled soul: a spirited, endearing horse named Claret. “The first time I saw Claret, I fell in love,” she fondly remembers. Taking into account her past experiences and calling upon all she had learned about anxiety from Norm, Rita formed a bond with the rebellious, agitated Claret that those around her thought impossible. “In the end, we saved each other,” she says.
A riveting memoir that reads like a novel, in LET THE TORNADO COME Rita shares how she applied the hard lessons learned during her tumultuous childhood and adolescence to save the beautiful life she created for herself in adulthood with prose so vivid and raw they could only be written by a true survivor.
Rita Zoey Chin’s writing has appeared in many publications. She received her MFA from the University of Maryland and now lives in Boston with her husband, where she teaches at Grub Street; mentors teenage girls, and rides her mischievous horse, Claret.
What’s the one thing liberal and conservative parents can agree on? Kids these days are spoiled. But are they? With the new generation hitting the work force under the labels “coddled,” “lazy,” and “entitled,” it’s easy enough to place the blame on parents. But is a pampered approach to parenting really ruining future generations? And is the only solution for parents to take off the kid-gloves when it comes to discipline? The man you are about to meet will share with you the myth of the spoiled child.
Alfie Kohn thinks the answer to both of these questions is a resounding “No.” In The Myth of the Spoiled Child, he seeks to debunk the overstated downside of spoiling, and to call out the dangers of hyper corrective approaches that are too sparing with affirmation and reward. Within The Myth of the Spoiled Child, Kohn challenges the assertion that education and quality child-rearing are in decline, saying that the same claim has been made by every generation prior, citing a “golden era” that is either grossly misremembered or wholly nonexistent. He emphasizes why it’s important to establish a “working-with” perspective on parenting, rather than one of “doing-to.” This method teaches children through dialogue rather than through deprivation or “hard knocks,” allowing them to make, or at least take part in, the decisions that influence their lives. He also discredits the perceived pervasiveness of over- and under-parenting stereotypes such as the “helicopter mom,” noting that claims of the growing dominance of these practices are unsubstantiated. Kohn suggests that being an involved parent, even at the risk of being over involved, is far less dangerous than being a detached, or dictatorial, presence.
Despite the polarized viewpoints Americans hold about how the nation should be moving forward, Kohn offers a way that both liberals and conservatives can come together for the benefit of our country’s children—who are, after all, our country’s future.
Alfie Kohn is a frequent lecturer on the topics of education and parenting, and the author of twelve previous books, including The Homework Myth, Punished by Rewards, and Unconditional Parenting. His work has been covered by the New York Times, Washington Post, Boston Globe, and USA Today, and he has appeared on CNN, BBC, and numerous NPR shows. He lives in the Boston area.