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Reviewed by Vernita Naylor for Readers' Favorite
Gritty. Unapologetic. Engaging. This is the essence behind My 730 Days at the Gates of Hell: Writings from the Inside by Philip van Heusen. The reader is given a personal, behind-the-scenes account of the author's day-to-day life in prison and its impact on him. Philip hits us hard as he provides transparency in depicting how his journey into the correctional system began, how he was prescribed Requip, and how he dealt with a sexual addiction to porn. In being falsely accused and while under the influence of Requip, he realized that he must own up to his part and serve the sentence. In his decision to turn his life around, he decided to make a difference that influenced his life and that of others in prison. The reader gets an up-close look to see this David and Goliath story. Philip, like David, must seek the best route to deal with the challenges, Goliath. He now must overcome porn addiction; Requip side effects; being away from his family; living life in the State prison system; and being subjected to brainwashing, drugs, gangs, weapons, loan sharking, the food, healthcare system, and servitude conditions of getting paid pennies for prison labor.
Despite the challenges that we experience in life, especially as believers, we must understand that it's all part of the plan. I enjoyed reading Philip's journey because he found out a lot about himself and others. He discovered that as a minister who struggled with a porn addiction, he was not alone and that other ministers struggled. As I continued to read My 730 Days at the Gates of Hell, I began to recall and reflect on Jeremiah 29:11: "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you, and not to harm you, plans to give you hope, and a future." How this future continues, no one knows, like In Chapter 20, "Out of the Prison but Not Free," the life of a prisoner doesn't end once they walk out of those prison doors. More needs to be done as they work to secure a fulfilling future. The prison system is antiquated and needs to be overhauled, while prisoners need to be rehabilitated with the ability to be gainfully employed and receive credentials in the volunteer roles that they held while in prison, from working with non-profit organizations to a firefighter. Highly recommended.