The Prison Within

A Memoir of Breaking Free

Non-Fiction - Memoir
328 Pages
Reviewed on 08/24/2020
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Jose Cornelio for Readers' Favorite

The Prison Within: A Memoir of Breaking Free by Don Cummins is a brilliantly written, inspirational memoir about one man’s journey towards personal transformation and inner freedom. Don narrates his story from being homeless, addicted to drugs, and a bank robber, through prison experience to finally becoming a free man, a loving father and husband, and a corporate director and community leader. When the reader encounters Don, he’s a man set for a dismal end. But this memoir chronicles the journey to finding and embracing a higher purpose, a story about taking control and full responsibility for his life and actions. The difference is in the miracle that results from that commitment.

This is a beautiful story and for anyone who enjoys memoirs, Don’s story will be a great and delightful read. Don’s journey is one that many people can relate to. While he’s had his fair share of addictions, it is fair enough to notice the message of hope this book communicates to readers. It is raw at times. The overall writing is sprinkled with powerful insights about life, vision, and the relationship we have with ourselves. The Prison Within: A Memoir of Breaking Free is a masterfully written book loaded with not only insight and wisdom but lessons that will help anyone change their life or discover in themselves the key to unlocking the door to their own freedom. I was drawn by the image of “prison within” featured in the title, but I didn’t know the contents of the book would be this inspiring and rich. The way the author writes about freedom, real freedom, is deep.

K.C. Finn

The Prison Within: A Memoir of Breaking Free is a work of non-fiction in the memoir, slice of life and inspirational sub-genres, and was penned by author Don Cummins. Written for adult audiences due to themes of drug usage and some explicit language, this is a harrowing true-life tale that has real grit and driving force at its heart. We meet Don, who has been in prison and declared legally insane, learning about his background, his problems with drugs and homelessness. From here begins an incredible transformation as Don turns his life around, finding family, corporate success, and new hope in a brand new life.

Author Don Cummins’s excellent memoir proves that you can make it in this life, no matter how bad a hand you’re dealt or how many mistakes you may initially make. The narrative voice is one with deserved pride and inspiration for lifting oneself out of dire circumstances, and readers will be sure to feed into that raw, emotive energy as they bear witness to some really tough and tragic times in the author’s life. What results is quite an incredible story as his life begins to turn around, but through it all, Don never loses that amazing determination and healing power that drives him forward. A story of a true underdog and a powerful motivational tool, I would highly recommend The Prison Within: A Memoir of Breaking Free to all readers who want emotive, real-life stories, addiction-overcoming inspirational works, and stories from the heart.

Viga Boland

On a very personal level, reading The Prison Within by Don Cummins was a real treat. I say this because I know from first-hand experience how much courage it takes to “come out” in print on a very private but painful subject. What makes Cummins’ achievement in writing this memoir even better is the importance of his subject: the heart-breaking struggle with drug addiction faced by far too many people of all ages. What readers look for in any memoir, and one of the reasons I believe so strongly in this genre, is not just the narrator’s story complete with its rather unpleasant details, but seeing a happy ending. Readers need to come away not just informed, but wanting to celebrate the writer’s victory over his or her demons.

In his simple, friendly approach to telling his story, Don Cummins gives us all that and so much more. Cummins moves smoothly back and forth between his present and past, which incidentally included many long years in prison and, once out, several failed attempts to stay clean. So many times I found myself thinking, “Oh no...not again!” I became almost as desperate as he must have felt to see him finally kick the habit. Well, he not only did that but today Don has a happy marriage, several children, and a very successful career. And like so many of us who have successfully overcome adversity, he is ever understanding of others going through the same hell and wanting to help them.

Again, on a personal level, when Don finally nailed how and why he had become an addict, I was struck by his recognition of the primary issue. I realized that his feelings of inadequacy, of somehow being undeserving were deeply rooted in his childhood. Some folks find the inner strength to get on top of such feelings as they mature; others need much more help, and when they can’t get it through friends, family, or therapy, they turn to chemical or alcoholic escape. It can take decades, as Don’s recovery did, and even then one can never be sure there’ll be no further relapses. Like any well-written memoir, The Prison Within deserves a wide readership. It could save your life or the life of someone you love. Thanks for writing this memoir, Don Cummins.