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Review – Picking Cotton by Jennifer Thompson-Cannino and Ronald Cotton

picking cotton

Picking Cotton
by Jennifer Thompson-Cannino and Ronald Cotton and Erin Torneo
304 pages
Published March 3, 2009
Non-fiction

Picking Cotton is a non-fiction memoir told alternately by Jennifer Thompson-Cannino and Ronald Cotton. I’m going to assume the third author, Erin Torneo, is actually the ghost writer, which probably explains the seemingly disjointed writing.

(Normally I tackle writing style at the end of a review, but I’m going to do it here. I’ve read one other book that I know for sure was written by a ghost writer, and while I liked the supposed author, I didn’t like how the ghost writer said everything pretty much verbatim of how the author said things. I mean, I didn’t get anything new out of the book that I didn’t know from just listening to the guy on the radio. I understand on a theoretical level what a ghost writer’s job is, I just have yet to see it done well. While the writing in Picking Cotton wasn’t ideal, it certainly got the story across and I ignored the writing style.)

Here’s the story: Jennifer Thompson-Cannino was just 22 when she was raped at knife point by a black man. While it was happening, she studied his face and told herself that if by some miracle she made it out alive, she would be sure to put this bastard in prison. Her rapist didn’t kill her, so the next day she went to the police station and worked with a sketch artist. When they brought in a lineup so she could identify her attacker, she picked out Ronald Cotton and swore that was the man who raped her.

Ronald Cotton was sure he would beat this accusation, because he hadn’t raped Jennifer, and he was sure he could prove it! Unfortunately, his alibi fell through (he got confused as to the date of the rape and actually didn’t have an alibi for the night Jennifer was raped), and it was based on Jennifer’s testimony that Ronald was convicted to life plus 50 years in prison.

Ronald worked really hard to get his conviction thrown out so he could get a new trial, because he’d met the guy who’d actually raped Jennifer, and so he was hoping that either a) this guy would confess at a new trial or b) Jennifer would remember her real rapist when she saw him, but sadly neither of those happened and Ronald was sentenced to two life terms, which was more time in prison than he was sentenced to at his first trial!

Seriously, this story just kept getting worse and worse. And when Ronald was finally exonerated, Jennifer obviously didn’t get in touch with him right away, because how could you deal with that guilt that you’d stolen 11 years of someone’s life? After a couple of years, they met AND RONALD FORGIVES HER. He forgives the woman who STOLE 11 years of his life. Talk about forgiveness. That is the ultimate forgiveness, the way that we ultimately should lead our lives (but have a hard time doing because let’s face it: anger is easier than forgiveness). Ronald and Jennifer now work together now to educate people on the fallibility of eyewitness testimony and they try to help others who’ve been wrongly convicted based on eyewitness testimony.

If you’ve been reading this blog for longer than, oh, say 30 days, you’ll know I DON’T READ NON-FICTION. I just don’t. It’s not my thing. So a non-fiction book getting MY stamp of approval, is, well, rare. Please, go read this book. Having read my review and watching the videos I’ve posted below doesn’t make up for reading this book. This is an amazing story that everyone should read.

Rating: 90 out of 100

Buy Picking Cotton at Powell’s | Buy Picking Cotton at Amazon

Website for Picking Cotton

Other reviews:

Leafing Through Life

Booking Mama

Here’s the book trailer that will give you a great overview of the book:

Here’s two videos from 60 Minutes when they covered this case:

| Tags: , , , , , , , 18 comments »

18 Responses to “Review – Picking Cotton by Jennifer Thompson-Cannino and Ronald Cotton”

  1. Review – Picking Cotton by Jennifer Thompson-Cannino and Ronald … | bookreview

    […] the original post: Review – Picking Cotton by Jennifer Thompson-Cannino and Ronald … Tags: fiction-book, posted-below, the-videos, thing, videos, […]

  2. Sheri

    You know, I think I had heard about this story and I was moved by the tremendous forgiveness exhibited. I absolutely LOVED your review. Thank you!

    Sheri

    [Reply]

  3. Pam R.

    Is there a movie based on this story? I swear I’ve seen or heard of a movie with a very similar plot…

    [Reply]

  4. Julie P.

    I so agree with your review. I don’t read a lot of non-fiction either, but this one is a must! I was just blown away by the story, but what really made a lasting impression on me is theme of forgiveness — both the need to forgive others as well as the need to forgive ourselves!

    [Reply]

  5. Elizabeth Spann Craig

    Biographies are usually the only non-fiction I read, but this one sounds like a winner. Thanks for the tip.

    Elizabeth
    Mystery Writing is Murder

    [Reply]

  6. rhapsodyinbooks

    It’s a mind-blowing story. Great review!

    [Reply]

  7. Kathy

    I really want to read this book. I’d seen one of these videos before and just watched the 60 Minutes videos and they both made me cry. This is an amazing story and Ronald Cotton is an amazing man.

    [Reply]

  8. Rebecca

    This sounds like it would make a good movie. This must be a wonderful book to get your stamp of approval, like you said, you are not a big non-fiction fan! The videos are great. Thanks for sharing.

    [Reply]

  9. Beth F

    I’ve been reading the reviews of this one and the story intrigues me. But I’m not sure I’m going to get much more out of the book than I have out of the news coverage — and I do read nonfiction! I think I have it here on the TBR.

    [Reply]

  10. diane

    Great, honest review. I saw the two of them on television, and was amazed he was able to forgive her and move on.

    [Reply]

  11. Nicole

    There is just so much that I wan to read and that is the ONLY reason that I have not read this book. I saw the 60 minutes show and I read the description and it sounds fascinating; and now with your recommendation its even better especially since you don’t read non-fiction the pressure is more intense. I need a me that just reads all day, and doesn’t have to sleep. That technology isn’t available yet?

    [Reply]

  12. nikki

    I had heard this story, probably on that 60 minutes episode. What an amazing man Ronald Cotton is! Yet another one on my TBR list!

    [Reply]

  13. Laura Baker

    I love reading memoirs and so this one will have to go on my list. I have heard of the story and saw some of the interviews on TV but I would like to read the whole before and after. Thanks for a thought provoking review.

    [Reply]

  14. Marian

    It makes me wonder if there’s any information – online or otherwise – about ways in which we can make sure our eyewitness observation is as accurate as possible if we’re ever the victims of a crime.

    [Reply]

  15. zibilee

    This book sounds fascinating! I am not much a reader of non-fiction either, but sometimes I make exceptions. It sounds like this should be one of them. Thanks for the great review!

    [Reply]

  16. Jason&Wendi Madden

    Hi my name is Jason and my wife is interested in trying to get in touch as she also has suffered from being raped. And has been over the years writing about her story and is reaching out for someone to point her in the right direction to publish her book, any help would be greatly appreciated Thank You and God Bless.

    [Reply]

  17. ROV Training

    More IQ required…

    If I had an additional 65 IQ points, then ostensibly I could understand your story….

  18. OrdoLibertatis

    I agree, great book and moving story. I would advise you though against painting Mrs. Thompson as the “bad guy”. She didn’t STEAL 11 years of Cotton’s life, we can thank the criminal justice system for that. She merely did all she could to identify her attacker (who was in the process of raping her while she got the “best” look at him).

    [Reply]

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