The Secret Agenda
by Felicia C. Williams
Truetrust Agency

"She thought to herself how she had nothing more to lose and everything to gain, her freedom being paramount."

The joke in the film The Shawshank Redemption is that all prison inmates in the maximum-security facility are innocent: just ask them. In this book about female inmates in a southeastern prison facility, the quartet of incarcerated friends and soon-to-be daring escapees share the distinction of being guilty. They did the crimes, and now they are doing their time. But this is not for long. Using the powerful bonds of their friendship and the willingness to risk it all that comes with having little left to lose, the women forge and implement a plan to deliver themselves to better lives. How they proceed and whether they get caught are the compelling questions that drive the book’s narrative through a well-paced and appropriately suspenseful ride.

Prison stories often blend essential elements of character development, insight into life on the inside, and a harrowing escape. This one is no different, as it moves with agility between the four protagonists, their inmate lives, and their mission. As in Rachel Kushner’s celebrated novel, The Mars Room, the reader is introduced to the lives and societal missteps that lead otherwise productive and well-meaning women to lose their freedom and then risk everything to regain it. Indeed, the book celebrates the joy of freedom not just as a full-body lifestyle but in the little things, too, such as friends laughing together without a shushing guard controlling their most natural expressions. As the clock ticks on their escape to relative safety, the book paves the way for a sequel or a series to come. The author shares a heartfelt note in this work about the plight and potential for revising societal approaches to incarceration.

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