Winner of the 2013 Engine Books Novel Prize & 2015 CNY Book Award
Moses and Jorge will never leave the maximum security prison. Outside its walls, Gina, Shell, and Ellen will never escape its influence, or the way it tethers them to one another. When Jorge dies in his cell, lives within and beyond the prison walls are upended, testing the boundaries we all draw to keep the good in, the hurtful out.
“An intriguing debut.” —Kirkus Review
“In the realm of literature written about prison life, “You Are Free to Go” adds to the complex conversation about incarceration by looking at both the lives behind bars and those of the surrounding community. The lives here may be fictional, but their undeniable strength, love, desperation, and determination echo that of true lives outside the novel’s pages.”— Newfound Journal
I was hooked by You Are Free to Go from the start. Sarah Yaw demonstrates extraordinary powers of perception and empathy, both, as she inhabits her characters, allowing them to show us their tender spots, their meaner moments, and their unexpected strengths. Yaw’s prose is unadorned and powerful, and the moving story she tells bursts through this novel’s modest length with enormous humanity.
—Robin Black, author of Life Drawing
In You Are Free to Go, Sarah Yaw has given me exactly the novel I didn’t know I wanted to read, a penetrating look at a prison town where life inside and outside are shackled by our moral failures and demons. This is a book at once dark and beautiful, filled with characters unpredictable and recognizable. A debut novel delivered with maturity and grace, Yaw takes us in and out through many iron gates and right into the heart of our most human desire to love and be loved.
—Victoria Redel, author of Make Me Do Things and Loverboy
“A trio of faltering young women, each still tethered to the local prison, an inmate rapidly approaching his end—all live inside these pages with haunting, visceral persuasiveness. Dreamlike and startling, You Are Free to Go is poised between the imagined ether and bloody reality, but Sarah Yaw never flinches.”
—Michelle Wildgen, author of Bread and Butter and You’re Not You
“Sarah Yaw’s You Are Free to Go presents a large-scale tragedy of the highest order. Its brutal, authentic account of despairing men in prison is haunting on every page. It is terrifying and heartbreaking in its multiple portrayals of the hungering for freedom experienced by family members on the outside. As you read this remarkable novel you will feel you have actually touched the characters’ most unrelenting, life-stealing fears—and you will understand the survival of hope occurring when their love endures despite their fears.”
—Kevin McIlvoy, author of Hyssop
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