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Sweet Hell on Fire: A Memoir of the Prison I Worked In and the Prison I Lived In

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As a corrections officer at an all-male maximum security prison, Sara Lunsford worked with the worst of the worst, from serial killers to white supremacists. She knew that at the end of every day, she had to try and shed the memories of the horrors she had witnessed in order to live a happy existence. But the darkness invaded every part of her life. And dealing with a stre As a corrections officer at an all-male maximum security prison, Sara Lunsford worked with the worst of the worst, from serial killers to white supremacists. She knew that at the end of every day, she had to try and shed the memories of the horrors she had witnessed in order to live a happy existence. But the darkness invaded every part of her life. And dealing with a stressful divorce and a mother sucumbing to cancer led her to a complete immersion in her work and eventually the bottom of a liquor bottle. Sweet Hell on Fire takes the reader on a journey with the author, from hitting rock bottom to becoming a woman who understands the meaning of sacrifice, the joy of redemption and the quiet haven to be found in hope.


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As a corrections officer at an all-male maximum security prison, Sara Lunsford worked with the worst of the worst, from serial killers to white supremacists. She knew that at the end of every day, she had to try and shed the memories of the horrors she had witnessed in order to live a happy existence. But the darkness invaded every part of her life. And dealing with a stre As a corrections officer at an all-male maximum security prison, Sara Lunsford worked with the worst of the worst, from serial killers to white supremacists. She knew that at the end of every day, she had to try and shed the memories of the horrors she had witnessed in order to live a happy existence. But the darkness invaded every part of her life. And dealing with a stressful divorce and a mother sucumbing to cancer led her to a complete immersion in her work and eventually the bottom of a liquor bottle. Sweet Hell on Fire takes the reader on a journey with the author, from hitting rock bottom to becoming a woman who understands the meaning of sacrifice, the joy of redemption and the quiet haven to be found in hope.

30 review for Sweet Hell on Fire: A Memoir of the Prison I Worked In and the Prison I Lived In

  1. 4 out of 5

    Meghan

    This had the potential to be a much better book. The experiences that Lunsford lived through were genuinely fascinating but the story was hampered by a narrative voice that relied too heavily on cliches, posturing and self-justifications. More descriptive writing, stronger characterizations and more specificity overall would have heightened the drama and created more incentive for readers to become emotionally invested in the addiction-to-redemption arc of the memoir. Lunsford talks about honest This had the potential to be a much better book. The experiences that Lunsford lived through were genuinely fascinating but the story was hampered by a narrative voice that relied too heavily on cliches, posturing and self-justifications. More descriptive writing, stronger characterizations and more specificity overall would have heightened the drama and created more incentive for readers to become emotionally invested in the addiction-to-redemption arc of the memoir. Lunsford talks about honesty and baring it all on the page but one always gets the sense that she's holding out on us. We're told about the prison, but her writing is never visceral enough to do justice to the gore, grit and grime of her work in corrections. In general, there's just a lack of story-telling craft - while the narrator has all the materials necessary for a remarkable memoir, she doesn't seem to have taken the requisite time to hone her prose, to develop suspense over the course of multiple story incidents or to create momentum through the course of her narrative. It's unfortunate because the subject matter deserved a more considered and artful treatment.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Randal White

    I found that this book brought back a flood of memories. Like Lunsford, I worked in Corrections, 21+ years for the Federal Government. I began my career with them as a Correctional Officer, and worked my way up through the ranks to a long-sought retirement. I was also a second generation law enforcement professional, and also had a legendary father to try to measure up to. I experienced many of situations Lunsford had with inmates, including some that were even worse. I, too, found myself self-m I found that this book brought back a flood of memories. Like Lunsford, I worked in Corrections, 21+ years for the Federal Government. I began my career with them as a Correctional Officer, and worked my way up through the ranks to a long-sought retirement. I was also a second generation law enforcement professional, and also had a legendary father to try to measure up to. I experienced many of situations Lunsford had with inmates, including some that were even worse. I, too, found myself self-medicating with alcohol. It seemed that, other than just swallowing the traumas and keeping them to yourself, the only people you could talk to about them were other Officer's who had the same experiences. And the only way to open up to those people, and get them to open up, was to loosen the inhibitions with alcohol. Even then, one had to be careful not to reveal too much, or risk as being perceived as weak. You surely could not tell your loved ones of the prison realities, as it would have scared them to death. You could seek out mental health professionals, but in my experiences, they really had no answers other than to prescribe med's to help you sleep at night. For me, it took a good friend and mentor dying in a car accident after one such drinking session for me to realize I had to change (God bless you, Leroy!). I learned to seek outlets for the rage building inside me, simple things, like going to a batting cage and pulverizing baseballs until your arms gave out. Over time, as I was promoted out of the trenches, the wounds would scar over. Yet still today I find that, at unexpected times, a news story or incident will cause the memories to rush back, ripping the scars off and exposing the truth of how inhuman people can be. I wish Officer Lunsford all the best in her future, and thank her for so bluntly telling her story of what it is to be a Corrections Officer. I wish this book would be required reading for all who wish to seek out a career in Corrections.

  3. 5 out of 5

    K.A. Laity

    Wow. I’m not usually much of a memoir reader — a market that’s been done to death — but I fully recommend this one if you want to know just how much horror a person can go through and still emerge whole, better and truly triumph. This isn’t some suburban tale of boohoo cruel words. Lunsford’s account of being a prison guard while her life fell apart is harrowing from beginning to end, delivering an extra sucker punch just before redemption. From the first indelible image of trying to clean brain Wow. I’m not usually much of a memoir reader — a market that’s been done to death — but I fully recommend this one if you want to know just how much horror a person can go through and still emerge whole, better and truly triumph. This isn’t some suburban tale of boohoo cruel words. Lunsford’s account of being a prison guard while her life fell apart is harrowing from beginning to end, delivering an extra sucker punch just before redemption. From the first indelible image of trying to clean brains out of her uniform to the ultimate betrayal by a friend, you will be riveted. I’m sure the people on the train wondered what I was reading on my shiny tablet with my mouth open in astonishment. As for-profit prisons give the US the world’s highest rate of incarceration, it’s worth knowing the effects on the people inside, on both sides of the bars. Lunsford repeats the old guards’ wisdom: for the first year you’re not suited to the work — and after the first year, you’re not suited for anything else. She identifies with the men like her father and husband, who take no guff from anyone and achieves the coveted designation of “hard ass” — the prisoners call her “Sarge” with respect. But she also sees the cost of the rigid system. It’s all about choices, like everything. Lunsford had some hard choices to make.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Kathryn

    I don't know if having met the author has swayed me on this story, but it was a great read. I really feel her demons being excised here. This is not a light, fun read either. It's gritty and down and dirty. You're going to feel it between your teeth and toes for a bit. I don't know if having met the author has swayed me on this story, but it was a great read. I really feel her demons being excised here. This is not a light, fun read either. It's gritty and down and dirty. You're going to feel it between your teeth and toes for a bit.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Cassie Gutman (happybooklovers)

    I really enjoyed reading about the author's experience as a female maximum security prison officer. While there were parts toward the end (re: therapy) I didn't agree with, I do realize this is a memoir so is this author's experience, and it was interesting to see how she overcame and dealt with extreme sexism, tragedy, and hardships in her life. I really enjoyed reading about the author's experience as a female maximum security prison officer. While there were parts toward the end (re: therapy) I didn't agree with, I do realize this is a memoir so is this author's experience, and it was interesting to see how she overcame and dealt with extreme sexism, tragedy, and hardships in her life.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jaclyn Roche

    I just spent the last three days being taken on an emotional roller coaster through a year in the life of Sara Lunsford, a correctional officer who overcame herself and a traumatic incident. She came out stronger on the other side of that year despite life trying to knock her down. I straight up ugly cried at least four times throughout the memoir and laughed more than I could count. There were points while reading that I wished that I could reach through the pages and give the author a hug or a I just spent the last three days being taken on an emotional roller coaster through a year in the life of Sara Lunsford, a correctional officer who overcame herself and a traumatic incident. She came out stronger on the other side of that year despite life trying to knock her down. I straight up ugly cried at least four times throughout the memoir and laughed more than I could count. There were points while reading that I wished that I could reach through the pages and give the author a hug or an ear to listen or a shoulder to lean on. The brutal honesty and voyeuristic inside look captures you and speeds you through this book. Memoirs are not usually my cup of tea, but this one is different. It’s raw and honest from the corrections officers point of view. Ms. Lunsford is one of toughest women I have had the pleasure of speaking with, and her strength shines through the pages. I already look up to her because of her incredible talent as a writer; yet, today, I sit in awe of her. I sincerely have a newfound respect for her besides her killer writing & editing skills. Sweet Hell on Fire was riveting and inspiring. It was raw, passionate, and the descriptive “show don’t tell” language made you feel as if you were within those pages. My words can’t begin to do this memoir justice.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Freda Mans-Labianca

    Detailed and gritty! Look, I know some of you are looking at the description or cover and thinking, "there's no way I'd read that, it's not my tastes." Well, get out of your comfort zone, and read it anyway! There is an amazing story to be heard right here. This lady, Sara, went through hell and back within a year, and not only became a better person, but changed her whole being. She's strong, confident, smart, and you root for her every step of the way. Let me tell you, she doesn't disappoint ei Detailed and gritty! Look, I know some of you are looking at the description or cover and thinking, "there's no way I'd read that, it's not my tastes." Well, get out of your comfort zone, and read it anyway! There is an amazing story to be heard right here. This lady, Sara, went through hell and back within a year, and not only became a better person, but changed her whole being. She's strong, confident, smart, and you root for her every step of the way. Let me tell you, she doesn't disappoint either. Sure, some of the stories are tough to read. Yet, you'd sit and watch an episode of C.S.I on the television, so what is the difference? These are real. It is someone's life. The lessons in it are more valuable than learning how to botch a crime scene with Gary Sinise..... anyway, you get my drift. I love it and think if you gave it a shot, you'd love it too.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Cheryl

    Sweet Hell on Fire, indeed. The writing is excellent; Sara Lunsford's experiences are laid bare to her readers. It is horrifying what she survived inside and outside of those prison walls. While majorities of women have never been, and will never be, correctional officers, Sara still has a message that all women need. We can be free from our own prisons, “You define you.” It is my dream to find that same courage. In reading Sara's book, I discovered that I am stronger than I thought I was. It is d Sweet Hell on Fire, indeed. The writing is excellent; Sara Lunsford's experiences are laid bare to her readers. It is horrifying what she survived inside and outside of those prison walls. While majorities of women have never been, and will never be, correctional officers, Sara still has a message that all women need. We can be free from our own prisons, “You define you.” It is my dream to find that same courage. In reading Sara's book, I discovered that I am stronger than I thought I was. It is definitely time to "rack the door", take inventory, and get rid of the crap that draws me back into my self-made prison. Thank you, Sara

  9. 5 out of 5

    Donna

    This is an amazing story of coming out the other side, of making the decision to be happy. There are two parts to this story work and the rest of her life. This book takes you through a pivotal year in the author’s life. Sara is a strong and effective correctional officer. Sara is also a young mother struggling with her inner demons. This story tells of her struggles and will leave you feeling better about the world. I could totally relate to this story but am not strong enough (or a good enough This is an amazing story of coming out the other side, of making the decision to be happy. There are two parts to this story work and the rest of her life. This book takes you through a pivotal year in the author’s life. Sara is a strong and effective correctional officer. Sara is also a young mother struggling with her inner demons. This story tells of her struggles and will leave you feeling better about the world. I could totally relate to this story but am not strong enough (or a good enough writer) to bleed all over the page. It took incredible courage to write this story and I applaud the author’s courage. Choose to be happy.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Leah Hallow

    What an amazing story! I couldn't put this book down! Poignant, humorous, thoughtful-all describe this memoir. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the prison system, gender politics, or needing a good, smart laugh! What an amazing story! I couldn't put this book down! Poignant, humorous, thoughtful-all describe this memoir. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the prison system, gender politics, or needing a good, smart laugh!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jene

    Why did a publisher put this book out? No offense to Ms. Lunsford but her story just didn't impress me or surprise me. I have known people in prison with far more graphic stories, and I have known addicts and alcoholics with far more tragic tales (eventually she even states she isn't an alcoholic, she just drank a lot). Why did a publisher put this book out? No offense to Ms. Lunsford but her story just didn't impress me or surprise me. I have known people in prison with far more graphic stories, and I have known addicts and alcoholics with far more tragic tales (eventually she even states she isn't an alcoholic, she just drank a lot).

  12. 5 out of 5

    Tara West

    One of the best books I've read in a very long time. I think every woman should read this. Sara Lunsford is an inspiration. One of the best books I've read in a very long time. I think every woman should read this. Sara Lunsford is an inspiration.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Denise DeSio

    Sara Lunsford is one tough cookie! She pens a hard-hitting, bitingly sarcastic, down and dirty memoir. If the visuals she creates aren't enough to dump her readers squarely into her finely drawn scenes, her creative, and often hilarious, potty-mouth analogies will. Please, I beg of you, if you are beach reader who craves pretty, likeable characters, pass this book up. This book contains a harsh, brutally honest unforgiving commentary of the prison system, from the inmates to the guards. And the Sara Lunsford is one tough cookie! She pens a hard-hitting, bitingly sarcastic, down and dirty memoir. If the visuals she creates aren't enough to dump her readers squarely into her finely drawn scenes, her creative, and often hilarious, potty-mouth analogies will. Please, I beg of you, if you are beach reader who craves pretty, likeable characters, pass this book up. This book contains a harsh, brutally honest unforgiving commentary of the prison system, from the inmates to the guards. And the introspective Lunsford doesn't spare her own character. The flawed heroine is the first to admit her own shortcomings, and there are many. At its core, though, it is one woman's badass, ever-evolving journey to her center, a place that few of us have the courage or insight to do. Let me also the mention that Susan Marlowe, the narrator of this audiobook, does a great job creating a believable voice with the material. I wholeheartedly recommend the audiobook over the page for this riveting memoir.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Deedra

    This is an excellent book.I knew reading it would bring on memories of things in my life that I did not understand.The child of a police officer who drank and beat his kids and wives,I wanted some insight as to why.She mentions others doing these things. Ms Lunsford was a tough woman with tough choices.We could have been siblings the way she describes her mother! She is an unwed mother at 19( check!) Gets a job at a prison in a prison town (kind of check) but she turned to booze and sex ,we diff This is an excellent book.I knew reading it would bring on memories of things in my life that I did not understand.The child of a police officer who drank and beat his kids and wives,I wanted some insight as to why.She mentions others doing these things. Ms Lunsford was a tough woman with tough choices.We could have been siblings the way she describes her mother! She is an unwed mother at 19( check!) Gets a job at a prison in a prison town (kind of check) but she turned to booze and sex ,we differ here.She watches horrible things go down at her job.She loses her husband ,but he is always there to pick her up,she hangs at bars,she fights and she finally gets clean.It is a heartwrenching story,full of little joys and learning moments. Susan Marlowe was a wonderful narrator.She put a lot into this book! I was given this free review copy audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Crystal-Rain Love

    Most memoirs are by people telling you how great they are, or making excuses for their behavior. This memoir is a hard, bold and brutally honest review of a very dark part of the author's life. It was an extremely graphic look at what happens behind prison walls as well, one I had to take in small doses because wow... I wasn't expecting this book to be pretty, but I also wasn't emotionally or mentally prepared for what lay between these pages. The author is a master at description so you get som Most memoirs are by people telling you how great they are, or making excuses for their behavior. This memoir is a hard, bold and brutally honest review of a very dark part of the author's life. It was an extremely graphic look at what happens behind prison walls as well, one I had to take in small doses because wow... I wasn't expecting this book to be pretty, but I also wasn't emotionally or mentally prepared for what lay between these pages. The author is a master at description so you get some seriously vivid images of the disgusting things the prisoners did, and a painful glimpse into a tragedy in the author's own life that I didn't know was coming and hurt me to my soul to read about her ordeal. I recommend this book to anyone who likes stories of women who overcome tragedy.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Dana Delamar

    Damn, I could NOT put this book down! By turns fascinating, shocking, and harrowing (with a fair amount of black humor), this memoir makes you feel like you were there, walking beside Lunsford as she went about her duties at the prison. Lunsford does not spare herself -- the good, the bad, the ugly, and the downright heartbreaking all come out onto the page. A remarkable portrait of someone doing a damn difficult job and doing it well, at very high cost. Her ability to overcome personal issues a Damn, I could NOT put this book down! By turns fascinating, shocking, and harrowing (with a fair amount of black humor), this memoir makes you feel like you were there, walking beside Lunsford as she went about her duties at the prison. Lunsford does not spare herself -- the good, the bad, the ugly, and the downright heartbreaking all come out onto the page. A remarkable portrait of someone doing a damn difficult job and doing it well, at very high cost. Her ability to overcome personal issues and traumas that would destroy most people is even more remarkable. Trigger warning: There is a brutal sexual assault. I'll be checking out Lunsford's fiction. She's a hell of a writer.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    I read this for a book club. What a waste! The storyteller is so braggadocios that it makes it hard to believe anything she says. It feels like page after page of posturing with very little actual storytelling. She seems to think she is the only person on Earth who is not an idiot and treats people as such. This had a lot of potential but, it just never made it. I finished it because I felt like I had too in order to speak in an educated fashion with the other book club readers but, I wouldn’t r I read this for a book club. What a waste! The storyteller is so braggadocios that it makes it hard to believe anything she says. It feels like page after page of posturing with very little actual storytelling. She seems to think she is the only person on Earth who is not an idiot and treats people as such. This had a lot of potential but, it just never made it. I finished it because I felt like I had too in order to speak in an educated fashion with the other book club readers but, I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Darla

    I LOVED THIS BOOK. IT SHOWS HOW THE HUMAN SPIRIT CAN SURVIVE TRAUMA AND COME OUT THE OTHER SIDE AND BE WHOLE. IT MAKES YOU LAUGH, IT MAKES YOU CRY AND MAKES YOU TAKE A LONG LOOK AT YOURSELF. FOR MANY YOU WILL BE ABLE TO EMPATHIZE AND WALK SOME OF THE SAME ROADS. THE AUTHOR IS A COURAGEOUS WOMAN AND SOMEONE YOU WOULD BE PROUD TO CALL FRIEND. I WOULD RECOMMEND THIS STORY TO ALL OF MY FRIENDS TO READ.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Cathryn Wellner

    Gritty and raw, this memoir is unrelenting in its exploration of one uber-confident woman whose life is upended by a job she does well. She chooses to work with the most hardened criminals, a more sure path to job security and promotions. Her descriptions are graphic, both of the prisoners and staff with whom she works and of the twisted personal life that comes with the job.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Eileen Haney

    This is the reality of the life of a female prison guard. Harsh.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jade

    It shows great insight into things you may not have thought about inside prison and how it affects life not just in a job but outside too, would definitely read again.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Rashel

    Read it because I thought I should, know the truth. Brutally blunt, this exposes the lowest humans can get to. She also provides informed insight into the deviant psychology of the criminal element.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Deborah Hall

    An enjoyable read, easy on the brain, not a easy subject. Not an easy life.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Denise

    Very gritty and straight forward. Not for the faint of heart

  25. 4 out of 5

    Alyssa Yates

    I'm not usually much of a memoir reader, but I fully recommend this one if you want to know just how much horror a person can go through and still emerge whole, better and truly triumph. This isn't some suburban tale of a cruel words. Lunsford's account of being a prison guard while her life fell apart is harrowing from beginning to end, delivering an extra sucker punch just before redemption. From the first burning image of trying to clean brains out of her uniform to the ultimate betrayal by a I'm not usually much of a memoir reader, but I fully recommend this one if you want to know just how much horror a person can go through and still emerge whole, better and truly triumph. This isn't some suburban tale of a cruel words. Lunsford's account of being a prison guard while her life fell apart is harrowing from beginning to end, delivering an extra sucker punch just before redemption. From the first burning image of trying to clean brains out of her uniform to the ultimate betrayal by a friend, you will be riveted. As for-profit prisons give the US the world's highest rate of incarceration, it's worth knowing the effects on the people inside on both sides of the bars. Lunsford repeats the old guards' wisdom: for the first year you're not suited to the work -- and after the first year, you're not suited for anything else. She identifies with the men like her father and husband, who take no guff from anyone and achieves the coveted designation of "hard ass" -- the prisoners call her "Sarge" with respect. This respect is rare and valuable considering Sara worked with the worst of the worst, from serial killers to white supremacists. But she also sees the cost of the rigid system. It's all about choices, like everything. Lunsford has some hard choices to make. Sweet Hell on Fire is one of the best memoirs I've read thus far. It is in all ways funny, insightful, gripping, educational, and just plain inspiring; a fascinating, frightening lens into a simmering underworld most of us would rather not think about. Ms. Lunsford is brutally honest about her years as a corrections officer, giving us a glimpse into a world most of us will never see from either side of the bars. Her story is rich in detail and she is not afraid to tell even the worst, most embarrassing parts of it.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Karyl

    I admit that part of the reason I didn't particularly like this book is it reminded me of a woman I know that I don't particularly care for, so that colored my views. But I also think there should be a limit on how many times one should be allowed to drop the F-bomb in one book. I'm not a prude; that's not the problem. I understand that there is a ton of profanity between inmates and correctional officers, so any time she quoted herself or an inmate and they cussed, I was okay with that. But she I admit that part of the reason I didn't particularly like this book is it reminded me of a woman I know that I don't particularly care for, so that colored my views. But I also think there should be a limit on how many times one should be allowed to drop the F-bomb in one book. I'm not a prude; that's not the problem. I understand that there is a ton of profanity between inmates and correctional officers, so any time she quoted herself or an inmate and they cussed, I was okay with that. But she could have come up with better ways of describing things in between these quotes without resorting to profanity. I started re-writing certain phrases in my head as I read to see if I could remove the profanity and still make it powerful and strong. And sure enough, it could be done. I get that it's a thousand times harder to be a female officer than a male officer in such a male dominated world, and that she had to be much more creative in her dealings with the inmates to make sure she had the upper hand. But I got tired of her boiling most of her interactions down to "I proved I had a bigger dick." I understand that that's basically what has to happen, but it got old. I am also holding her to a slightly higher standard because in her bio, it states that she is a published author, though she writes under pseudonyms and none of her titles are mentioned, so she should have a pretty good idea on how to write. I'm glad she was able to come through this baptism by fire feeling like she triumphed over all the horrible things that happened to her, and I'm glad she reunited with her husband because it seemed like he really cared for her.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Vivi Dumas

    Sometimes it's frightening when life imitates art and the monsters from the pages or screens appear in real life. Sweet Hell on Fire is a raw, eye-opening looking into a year in the life of correctional office turned writer, Sara Lunsford. I have to applaud Ms. Lunsford's bravery at laying out her world for all to see. It can't be easy to expose one's open wounds to be scrutinized by readers, to allow strangers into your intimate thoughts and fears, and to reveal all the dark secrets we desperat Sometimes it's frightening when life imitates art and the monsters from the pages or screens appear in real life. Sweet Hell on Fire is a raw, eye-opening looking into a year in the life of correctional office turned writer, Sara Lunsford. I have to applaud Ms. Lunsford's bravery at laying out her world for all to see. It can't be easy to expose one's open wounds to be scrutinized by readers, to allow strangers into your intimate thoughts and fears, and to reveal all the dark secrets we desperately want to hide. As I read each day in Sara's life, the book made me laugh, want to cry, and think about the journey we all have to walk to find ourselves and love ourselves. Sometimes we forget that we don't all come from the same place. We look at situations and rationale from a jaded perspective. Sweet Hell on Fire gives us a mirror into a world filled with darkness, but a path lit with spark of kindness, respect, and love. It might not be formed in the molds of our own lives, but clearly present. You notice it in the inmates Ms. Lunsford interacted with in the correctional facility, the strained relationship with her family, the relationship with her husband and children, but most of all in her descriptions of herself. Sweet Hell on Fire is a uncensored view into Ms. Lunsford's life. It's not pretty. The language is brutal. But it is an honest, intriguing, and well written read. Not for the faint of heart, but definitely an excellent read.

  28. 5 out of 5

    BRNTerri

    I've been interested in nonfiction, specifically true crime, since the mid-1990s and jumped at the chance to review this. I like reading and watching shows about the darker side of life. I thought it would be real interesting to read about working in the prison system from a woman's point of view. The book was everything I thought it would be- disturbing and disgusting. Did I mention the cup of semen Sara found in an inmate's cell? The author's narrative is raunchy and unfiltered and is a bit muc I've been interested in nonfiction, specifically true crime, since the mid-1990s and jumped at the chance to review this. I like reading and watching shows about the darker side of life. I thought it would be real interesting to read about working in the prison system from a woman's point of view. The book was everything I thought it would be- disturbing and disgusting. Did I mention the cup of semen Sara found in an inmate's cell? The author's narrative is raunchy and unfiltered and is a bit much at times. I'm not offended but some of her language made me cringe. If you're bothered by foul language, you'll want to skip this. Her calling herself 'fat' was way too repetitive, as was her constantly telling us how tough she was. We get it- you're 6' tall, 'fat' and tougher than any man you've ever come across. Move on to something else. I'm interested in knowing if she'd like to find her birth parents and how old she is. This was a very entertaining read and I do recommend it to those interested in prison life. I received this from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Bethany

    Books about prison fascinate me. It's a whole culture and lifestyle that I cannot wrap my mind around, and honestly that's probably not a bad thing. I like books about prisons and prisoners...written by CO's, inmates or former inmates, I'm not fussy, I just like the insight. This book appeased my guilty pleasure in that it definitely offered up some insight as to what life is like inside those walls. The problem I had with this book is that I struggled to like the author. I understand that you ne Books about prison fascinate me. It's a whole culture and lifestyle that I cannot wrap my mind around, and honestly that's probably not a bad thing. I like books about prisons and prisoners...written by CO's, inmates or former inmates, I'm not fussy, I just like the insight. This book appeased my guilty pleasure in that it definitely offered up some insight as to what life is like inside those walls. The problem I had with this book is that I struggled to like the author. I understand that you need to be tough and thick skinned to work in a prison. I understand sizing up everyone you meet inside and outside of those gates. I understand the detachment, the jumpiness and the need to control your environment at all times...I am married to a former CO...I get it. However, it's hard to like a woman who chooses to drink her sorrows away and not take care of her children. A woman who admits that even as she made those choices (choosing alcoholism over her family)she was AWARE that she was making them. The book is well written, and overall I enjoyed it. I just don't have any respect for the author...and throughout the whole book she claims she makes the choices she makes so that people will respect her. I guess it just didn't work with me...

  30. 5 out of 5

    Caitlin

    Sweet Hell on Fire is one of the best memoirs I've read this year. It is in all ways funny, insightful, gripping, educational, and just plain inspiring. Ms. Lunsford is brutally honest about her years as a corrections officer, giving us a glimpse into a world most of us will never see from either side of the bars. Her story is rich in detail and she is not afraid to tell even the worst, most embarassing parts of it. Having been one of the few women in the IT profession back when dinosaurs walked Sweet Hell on Fire is one of the best memoirs I've read this year. It is in all ways funny, insightful, gripping, educational, and just plain inspiring. Ms. Lunsford is brutally honest about her years as a corrections officer, giving us a glimpse into a world most of us will never see from either side of the bars. Her story is rich in detail and she is not afraid to tell even the worst, most embarassing parts of it. Having been one of the few women in the IT profession back when dinosaurs walked the earth, I know what it's like to have to prove yourself to your male co-workers and to male customers who didn't believe that women knew anything about computers. My favorite question at the time was from a customer whose issue was escalated to me because none of the guys could fix it: "Honey, can you put me through to a real technician?" I can't imagine working in a maximum security prison as a woman where at any moment anyone is vulnerable to Very Bad Things. Ms. Lunsford's window into her job, its idiosyncracies, her struggles, and everything in-between is well worth the read. Highly recommended.

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