In Staten Island, Joe is a champion athlete, but when word arrives from Texas that a date has been set for the execution of his older brother Ed, the last thing he is going to do is run. Instead, he resolves to face this immense tragedy head-on and travels to a forlorn prison town to spend these precious final days with his brother.
As with One, Crossan has decided to tell this story in free verse. This sparse, poetic style, where every syllable counts, manages to capture and portray the thoughts and fears of Joe and allow us to empathise with him in a way that prose could not.
Beyond the impending sense of grief that pervades throughout, the author deftly creates a feeling of suffocating claustrophobia that mirrors Ed’s incarceration on Death Row. The stifling heat of the Texas summer and the inability to struggle through a maze of appeals means that Joe also feels trapped. The inhumanity of a system that puts families in such a position is realised in a way that would force even the most hardened to question laws that allow state executions to happen at all.
It would be remiss, however, to believe that this book is bereft of hope, for at its heart this is a love story. The fleeting images of two brothers living, breathing and dreaming together are what make the story matter, for as Ed is told ‘We can survive without anything except love.’