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"A remarkable story of a young man's loss of everything he deemed important, and his ultimate discovery that redemption can be taught by society's most dreaded outcasts." —John Grisham "Hilarious, astonishing, and deeply moving." —John Berendt, author of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil The emotional, incredible true story of Neil White, a man who discovers the secr "A remarkable story of a young man's loss of everything he deemed important, and his ultimate discovery that redemption can be taught by society's most dreaded outcasts." —John Grisham "Hilarious, astonishing, and deeply moving." —John Berendt, author of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil The emotional, incredible true story of Neil White, a man who discovers the secret to happiness, leading a fulfilling life, and the importance of fatherhood in the most unlikely of places—the last leper colony in the continental United States. In the words of Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Olen Butler (A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain), White is “a splendid writer,” and In the Sanctuary of Outcasts “a book that will endure.”


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"A remarkable story of a young man's loss of everything he deemed important, and his ultimate discovery that redemption can be taught by society's most dreaded outcasts." —John Grisham "Hilarious, astonishing, and deeply moving." —John Berendt, author of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil The emotional, incredible true story of Neil White, a man who discovers the secr "A remarkable story of a young man's loss of everything he deemed important, and his ultimate discovery that redemption can be taught by society's most dreaded outcasts." —John Grisham "Hilarious, astonishing, and deeply moving." —John Berendt, author of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil The emotional, incredible true story of Neil White, a man who discovers the secret to happiness, leading a fulfilling life, and the importance of fatherhood in the most unlikely of places—the last leper colony in the continental United States. In the words of Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Olen Butler (A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain), White is “a splendid writer,” and In the Sanctuary of Outcasts “a book that will endure.”

30 review for In the Sanctuary of Outcasts: A Memoir

  1. 4 out of 5

    Petra-X

    Incarceration is supposed to both punish and rehabilitate. It always certainly does the former, but far less often accomplishes the latter. This book is a story of the latter. The author was a financial fraudster (view spoiler)[as was my present bf! Is he rehabilitated? That remains to be seen. (hide spoiler)] and was sentenced to one year in a facility that was both a leper colony and a prison. The prisoners had defective characters but the patients with leprosy did not. Their disease had given Incarceration is supposed to both punish and rehabilitate. It always certainly does the former, but far less often accomplishes the latter. This book is a story of the latter. The author was a financial fraudster (view spoiler)[as was my present bf! Is he rehabilitated? That remains to be seen. (hide spoiler)] and was sentenced to one year in a facility that was both a leper colony and a prison. The prisoners had defective characters but the patients with leprosy did not. Their disease had given them the extra dimension of enduring, making the best of life with all the restrictions of having to live in a facility because of their disabilities. The author changes from a man who will do anything to impress the world with his material goods and success no matter how he comes about them, to an introspective person who understands that what other people think is by and large meaningless, it's how he thinks of himself, how he values himself and how important it is to have character. His story is illuminated by his many friends, especially his best friend Elsa, an old lady, an amputee who is witty and insightful and never lets any challenges get her down. There are many other lovely stories of his friends varying from prison officials to convicts and the leprosy patients, some are full-blooded stories, others just vignettes, but all add to our ability to see how and what changed Neil W. White from a financial leech on society to a decent man who in this book says, Mea Culpa.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Will Byrnes

    A driven writer and entrepreneur, Neil White, played fast and loose with other people’s trust, manipulated money around in a way that was frowned upon by our legal statutes, and found himself a guest of the government at a penal institution that also served as America’s last leper colony. In the Sanctuary of Outcasts tells of his one year stay there, what he saw and learned, not only about our criminal incarceration system but about the history of leprosy, both the textbook learning and the sort A driven writer and entrepreneur, Neil White, played fast and loose with other people’s trust, manipulated money around in a way that was frowned upon by our legal statutes, and found himself a guest of the government at a penal institution that also served as America’s last leper colony. In the Sanctuary of Outcasts tells of his one year stay there, what he saw and learned, not only about our criminal incarceration system but about the history of leprosy, both the textbook learning and the sort that no book can teach, about true acceptance and understanding, overcoming one’s worst and becoming one’s best. Holding your family life together and coping with a year in the joint is put in perspective when you are surrounded by people who are literally wasting away, but who may have more substance to them than those more fortunate. The tale here is primarily White’s journey, his change from a person 100% concerned with the trappings of financial success, a disciple of “greed is good”, to a reflective, mature person, one more focused on doing good, and living simply and honestly. He comes to terms with his internal flaws in an environment defined by externalities. White offers a wonderful array of characters, from Ella, his legless muse to Doc, who has developed a remarkable way to attack many dire illnesses, to Link, a street thug, to an understanding priest. The list goes on. Many of the characters White encountered in his year in stir are briefly noted, but he offers a rich array of their interesting tales and this enhances the storytelling. He also offers us a peek into the strain his incarceration placed on his family. There are grainy photos in the book of some of the people he writes about, including his wife and children. I imagine that is how they looked attached to wall of his cell. I suppose one must wonder if White truly found some light, or, a gifted manipulator, he simply found a nifty way to come across as a better person than he is. We can not really know this from his book, of course. If it is the latter, he deserves credit for doing a pretty good job of it. But I suspect there is more than a grain of truth to his tale of personal growth. Either way, In the Sanctuary of Outcasts is a warm, fast, engrossing and satisfying read. ==============================QUOTES P 169 – Finally, in a sanctuary for outcasts, I understood the truth. Surrounded by men and women who could not hide their disfigurement, I could see my own. P 187 “How can I face the people of Oxford? What will people think?” I said. “What peoples think,” Ella said,”ain’t none of your business.” That night, in bed, I pondered this novel idea—to act without seeking praise from others. A good portion of my adult life had been spent daydreaming about what others thought of me. I imagined and re-imagined accolades, awards, trophies, applause. Just wait until they see this! I would say to myself, not even sure who “they” were. Journalism had been the perfect profession to spread the good news of my accomplishments. More than sixty thousand households—every neighbor, friend, and relative—received a monthly sampling of my works bound in the finest paper money could buy. People stopped me on the street to talk about a never-before-published photograph I had discovered, or a thought-provoking editorial I had penned. And I was more than happy to stop and elaborate. At times, it made me dizzy. I felt like I was fulfilling a destiny. Now, this hunt for adoration felt demeaning.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Shannon B

    I did not hate reading this book, but I wanted to punch the author repeatedly through it. What an arrogant, spoiled person. I did enjoy learning about Carville, and I wish the book would have focused more on the lepor colony than Mr. White's inability to admit he did something wrong. I will look into leporcy more on my own, it seems like an interesting topic that I know little about. I am so looking forward to tearing this guy apart at our book club!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Diane in Australia

    4 Stars = Outstanding. It definitely held my interest.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Kristie

    Can I give it 6 stars? A real treat for me was to have a few moments here and there to sneak off and read a few chapters of this book. I knew how the story ended but I was endeared to the characters whether they were inmates or patients and could not wait to find out what they were going to get into next. Some of the reviewers of this book could not get past Mr. White's high opinion of himself early on in his life. Some folks have to learn things the hard way and Mr. White was one of them. He was Can I give it 6 stars? A real treat for me was to have a few moments here and there to sneak off and read a few chapters of this book. I knew how the story ended but I was endeared to the characters whether they were inmates or patients and could not wait to find out what they were going to get into next. Some of the reviewers of this book could not get past Mr. White's high opinion of himself early on in his life. Some folks have to learn things the hard way and Mr. White was one of them. He was under the impression that he was above others and if he did something illegal, he would never have to pay the consequences. A prison term taught him differently. One of my favorite parts of the book was when he wrote how the leper patients (who were comfortable with themselves and each had a positive outlook) were not the disfigured ones. He himself was the disfigured one on the inside. I loved this book!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Natalya

    White lived through an experience that could have made for a remarkable story. He spent 18 months in jail with a doctor who invented treatments for Lyme disease and certain forms of cancer; the mob lawyer Frank Ragano; and dozens of leprosy patients. But I think White could have told his story better. I wasn't interested in his personal reflections at all. White arrived at the prison afraid of the leprosy patients, and then he suddenly fell in love with them, and I still don't understand exactly White lived through an experience that could have made for a remarkable story. He spent 18 months in jail with a doctor who invented treatments for Lyme disease and certain forms of cancer; the mob lawyer Frank Ragano; and dozens of leprosy patients. But I think White could have told his story better. I wasn't interested in his personal reflections at all. White arrived at the prison afraid of the leprosy patients, and then he suddenly fell in love with them, and I still don't understand exactly why. If White had written more about the other characters (at least as much as he wrote about his love of cologne, moving money around, etc.), I think I would have had more of an emotional investment in the story. I really doubt Ella (one of the older leprosy patients) responded with cute little Disney-like words of wisdom every time White asked her a question. I want to know what she said when she wasn't giving him life-altering advice. By casting Ella as simply a fairy-tale-godmother of sorts, White strips her of her humanity (ironically, since what the leprosy patients fear most in the book is being written off as sub-human). But did you know that more than 3,000 people in the U.S. have active cases of leprosy? And that it's estimated that about a third of the cases are a result of contact with infected armadillos? And that, in some areas, up to 20% of armadillos have leprosy? Don't pet the armadillo.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Beck McDowell

    In the Sanctuary of Outcasts is well written, compelling, and entertaining. My reader-brain loved White's interesting characters, vivid descriptions, and witty dialogue. The writer in me was drawn to Neil White's use of contrasting themes and images: the quiet contentment of the leper colony vs. the violence and unrest of the adjacent prison, the peaceful setting of the oak-lined plantation turned leprosarium against the sparse accommodations of the prison cell, the misshapen limbs of the sick v In the Sanctuary of Outcasts is well written, compelling, and entertaining. My reader-brain loved White's interesting characters, vivid descriptions, and witty dialogue. The writer in me was drawn to Neil White's use of contrasting themes and images: the quiet contentment of the leper colony vs. the violence and unrest of the adjacent prison, the peaceful setting of the oak-lined plantation turned leprosarium against the sparse accommodations of the prison cell, the misshapen limbs of the sick vs. the obsessive body-building of some inmates, and most importantly - the arrogance and narcissism of the memoirist entering the prison contrasted with the self-awareness and introspection of the man leaving. I agree with the reviewers who disliked Neil White intensely in the first half of the book, but isn't that the point? He was a thoroughly unlikable con man, bilking his friends for millions and his mother of her life savings without regard for anyone but himself. He made no attempt to learn from his early mistakes or to take advantage of the second chance he was given even before getting caught and arrested. White's descriptions of the patients he befriended are touching - the simple wisdom of Ella and the gentle friendliness of Harry. His humorous accounts of the inmates are great fun - Link with his crude real world perspective, Doc's intellectual tunnel vision, and Jimmy Hoffa's lawyers descriptions of his client's love of farting. The variety of the short scenes makes the book a quick read, along with the appeal of the Southern gothic charm the Mardi Gras parades, "high-stakes" Monopoly games with a financial shysters , and the smuggling of everything from muffalettas to prostitutes into the facility. There are lessons to be learned here, in particular Ella's cola bottle story, which ends with the moral than a leopard (with a nod to Link) can't change his spots. When White worries about how to be a different man when released, Ella reminds him that the characteristics that led to his downfall will never go away. He'll always be proud, needy of attention, and egotistical. She teaches him he must find a way to channel those flaws into achievements that benefit others. And the other important lesson is the one White learns about the superficiality of his world (and modern society.) His aversion to the stumps of lost limbs when he first meets the leprosy patients results from an obsession with beauty that led him to date beauty queens and undergo plastic surgery to hide the scar on his forehead from a childhood accident. What he learns from the patients at Carville is that real beauty comes from a simplicity of spirit and a generosity of self that have nothing to do with outer appearances.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Adrienne

    This book has an intriguing concept, but the execution was barely tolerable. The white collar criminal/journalist went into a federal prison/leproasaurium as a shallow, self-absorbed, self-aggrandizing guy and emerged 18 months later as a slightly less shallow, self-absorbed, self-aggrandizing guy. His decision to write about his experiences seems pretty calculated and I got tired of hearing how handsome & privileged he had been and about all the beauty queens he dated in college. He does seems This book has an intriguing concept, but the execution was barely tolerable. The white collar criminal/journalist went into a federal prison/leproasaurium as a shallow, self-absorbed, self-aggrandizing guy and emerged 18 months later as a slightly less shallow, self-absorbed, self-aggrandizing guy. His decision to write about his experiences seems pretty calculated and I got tired of hearing how handsome & privileged he had been and about all the beauty queens he dated in college. He does seems genuinely sorry that he got caught for check-kiting but not all that sorry about the check-kiting itself. He seems to feel worse about losing his reputation (and his credit) than about losing his wife. It was interesting to learn about the leprosy patients. It was certainly an odd social experiment to house federal prisoners and leprosy patients in the same facility, but I'm not sure it was a good experiment.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Barry

    This is a difficult book for me to review. On the one hand it is highly readable and for the most part very engaging, but on the other hand it's, well... It's hard to exactly define the negative, which is why this book is difficult for me to review. It's difficult to understand why the author wrote this book. There is some humor, but it's not funny enough for that to be the focal point. There are some insights in it, but it's not insightful enough for that to be the thrust of the book. There is This is a difficult book for me to review. On the one hand it is highly readable and for the most part very engaging, but on the other hand it's, well... It's hard to exactly define the negative, which is why this book is difficult for me to review. It's difficult to understand why the author wrote this book. There is some humor, but it's not funny enough for that to be the focal point. There are some insights in it, but it's not insightful enough for that to be the thrust of the book. There is history, but again, not enough for it to be a history book. There is evidence of some personal change, but not enough to warrant categorizing it thusly. There is a little bit of a lot of things, which is what makes it more engaging, but it also makes it tough to figure out the point of the book. Ostensibly, this is a coming of age memoir, which is odd considering the author was 33 years old when the events took place. Usually coming of age stories are for people much younger than 33. Which leads me to conclude, and this is backed up with numerous attitudes the author relates, that he was horribly immature at the age of 33. Superficial, self-absorbed, selfish, and greedy, the author lands in a federal minimum security prison essentially for writing checks to himself. Not exactly a heinous crime, and the author goes out of his way to demonstrate how different, how refined, how metrosexual -- how better he is compared with all the other inmates. Not used to living the high-life myself, I found it difficult to relate to Mr. White's lifestyle and thought processes, and felt alienated from him. But then, about halfway through the book, after his wife announces that she is divorcing him (I couldn't help but wonder who was more shallow: Mr. White or his wife, a woman who divorces her husband partway through his one year sentence because she can't stand the shame he has brought on her), he has an apparent revelatory moment where he decides to change his life, give up his consuming desire to look good in front of other people, and focus his life on his children. That's all fine and well, but at the end of his one year in 'country club prison' he admits that he hasn't changed. Kind of a let-down, and it made me wonder if his ah-ha moment was all an act to look good in front of other people. The definite bright side of the book was the attention paid to the leprosy patients, with whom Mr. White and the other prisoners shared living space. The fact that the leprosy colony existed and functioned, what life was like for the resident patients, and the perceptions of people toward them was eye-opening. In short, though the book is very readable and entertaining, it is difficult for me to come away from it without viewing the author as a spoiled, rich man, who has a polished veneer, sought to change, but remains spoiled and rich, selfish and self-absorbed on the inside.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Cindy Knoke

    Neil White was a supremely successful southern business man, first a reporter, than a publisher, with a beautiful wife, lovely children, gorgeous homes and a yacht. He was a leader in the business community, contributed to many charities, and was an elite philanthropist, who traveled the world in high style. White’s world came crashing down when he was arrested for kiting million dollar checks and committing financial fraud by the FBI. White was sentenced to 18 months incarceration in Carville Lo Neil White was a supremely successful southern business man, first a reporter, than a publisher, with a beautiful wife, lovely children, gorgeous homes and a yacht. He was a leader in the business community, contributed to many charities, and was an elite philanthropist, who traveled the world in high style. White’s world came crashing down when he was arrested for kiting million dollar checks and committing financial fraud by the FBI. White was sentenced to 18 months incarceration in Carville Louisiana, a picturesque, verdant, small, community in Louisiana. It was not until White arrived at his locus of incarceration, that he realized he was to serve his time in the nation’s only remaining Leprosorium, for people who were disfigured by Hansens disease. Many of the people in the facility had contracted the disease as children and were living out their entire lives in Carville, to protect them from the cruelties of the outside world. Most had been there for decades. Other white-collar criminal types were also incarcerated at Carville. Like White’s roomy, a Russian born physician and pharmacist, convicted of Medicare fraud for using an compound banned by the FDA, but quite effective for weight loss. It was estimated that he had billed Medicaid between $15-$37 million for these useful services. He was sentenced to 15 years in Carville. He was an very interesting man. At White’s first prisoner group meeting upon his arrival, led, of course, by a priest, another newly arrived con-man criminal, tells the priest group leader, that he didn’t want to “become no leopard.” Shortly after this first fun group orientation, White receives notification that his wife has, understandably, filed for divorce. So starts this absolutely incredible memoir. It’s reminded me in some ways of Thomas Mann’s, “Magic Mountain,” except that Mann's sanctuary was in a TB Asylum in Switzerland, not in a Leprosorium in Louisiana. White is an astoundingly good writer, and he strips himself raw in this memoir, examining himself and his life. He enters the leprosorium, an arrogant and angry man, and he leaves it profoundly changed by the experience. The book is not a depressing read. It is incredible, at times uplifting, sometimes tragically sad, but also moving. It is also true. The residents the reader meets who live in the Carville facility seem to exist in an alternate universe, separate entirely from our world and ways. The reality of people sequestered away for their entire lives for a treatable, manageable, disease is heartbreaking. More so when you consider the separations and horrific losses this would have required. By the time White enters the facility most of the permanent residents had lived there for decades. This was their home. At times, similar to when reading Mann’s Magic Mountain, I felt the residents sense of safety, their adjustment to their completely removed sanctuary, even if it meant they were outcasts. After all, don't most people feel like a bit of an outcast at some time or another in their life? Shakespeare certainly did. He wrote Sonnet 29 about it: SONNET 29 "When, in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes, I all alone beweep my outcast state And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries." But then he remembers, no matter how outcast he might be in "fortune and in men's eye's," he is not an outcast ..... "For thy sweet love remember'd such wealth brings That then I scorn to change my state with kings." Something similar to this occurs in this book . Some of the people in the sanctuary, form bonds of friendship, respect and attachment to each other, that results in an unexpected community, that is quite moving to read about. In fact, later when I learned they might move the residents out of the only home they had known for many decades, I became quite upset, thinking you can't rob these people who have suffered too much, of their only sanctuary. White forms a close friendship with Ella Bounds, an 88 year old black woman and double amputee, who contracted leprosy as a child. She is a dignified and impressive person, who clearly had a powerful effect on White, as she does on the reader. There are more people and stories here that will at times humor you, possibly anger you, definitely surprise you, but in the end, move you profoundly. White leaves after eighteen months, a changed person, and the reader is a better person also, for having read this book. Highly recommend.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    “Surely, healthy people—even inmates would not be imprisoned with lepers” Former publisher Neil White is convicted of check fraud, and sentenced to one year at Carville, a minimum security prison. It is only when he arrives that he discovers that Carville also houses Hansen Disease patients, or as they are commonly known—lepers. Mildly disgusted and reasonably terrified White serves his time amongst these “outcasts”. Determined to spin his legal setback to his favor, he approaches the situation a “Surely, healthy people—even inmates would not be imprisoned with lepers” Former publisher Neil White is convicted of check fraud, and sentenced to one year at Carville, a minimum security prison. It is only when he arrives that he discovers that Carville also houses Hansen Disease patients, or as they are commonly known—lepers. Mildly disgusted and reasonably terrified White serves his time amongst these “outcasts”. Determined to spin his legal setback to his favor, he approaches the situation as a reporter and complies information on patients, their disease and his fellow inmates. He also slowly recounts his life and crimes as he searches to learn from his experience and emerge a better person. White learns from criminals such as Jimmy Hoffa’s lawyer or a wise cracking car-jacker named Link (as in the missing…), and befriending the leprosy patients such as Ella who was abandoned at the home as a child and lived within its gates for almost 70 years. He compiles their stories for a modern look at those living with leprosy and those otherwise incarcerated. His story offers alarming factoids about leprosy such as “no one was certain how the disease was transmitted, no vaccine existed to prevent the spread, and no test was available to determine who was naturally immune and who was susceptible.” He also experiences eye opening revelations about his new place in society as a criminal. “I was an outcast right alongside the victims of leprosy.” This new perspective allows him to dwell on what he truly values, more than image or wealth and guides him in making difficult decisions about his future. White writes in a conversational style with a clear journalistic tone. He does make some excuses for his crime, and his insistence that he must be different from the other criminals read as arrogance. But his love for his children and his desire to redeem himself to those he injured was compelling enough to awkwardly endear readers. And his experience is wholly unique even if the lessons he gleams are generic. Anticipation of a climatic event or confirmation of a genuine transformation on White’s part is not satisfied. However, White does give leprosy a human face, and reminds us never to take the simple things for granted.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Shauna

    I don't know where to start. I read this book in one day,so obviously it was good. I enjoyed "watching" Neil learn and grow as a person during his year of incarceration. There were some very interisting characters. I was quite fond of Ella and Link. White did a good job describing what he saw and a bit of how he felt, but I feel he lacked in his descriptions. He could have made the book much more rich had he described not only what he saw and how he felt, but if had described how things smelled, I don't know where to start. I read this book in one day,so obviously it was good. I enjoyed "watching" Neil learn and grow as a person during his year of incarceration. There were some very interisting characters. I was quite fond of Ella and Link. White did a good job describing what he saw and a bit of how he felt, but I feel he lacked in his descriptions. He could have made the book much more rich had he described not only what he saw and how he felt, but if had described how things smelled, tasted and felt not only emotionally but how things felt to his sense of touch. An example of this, he said he was issued a wool blanket and knew he was going to miss sleeping in his Egyptian Cotton sheets. That is a nice statment, but what did the wool feel like, how did it compare to the cotton sheets. Why was this upsetting? He visually describes the oak trees and the lights that shine in his room, but I wanted more. Anyway, a very good book, I would recommend it to anyone as it is a very easy read and I had no idea a place like this existed in the United States. I realize this was a memoir on his time in prison, but I would really like to know more about the leporasarium side of things. Maybe we could get Mr. White to write a ficitional book based on Carville with Ella as the main character?

  13. 5 out of 5

    Anne Marie

    The first thing that I noticed were the enormous Spanish Oak on the cover, which is practically the secret Southern handshake of cover art. White is not just writing about lepers and criminals, he is writing a true story of the South. Some readers may not appreciate the occasional unrelated detail or bit of family history, but they are integral to White's Ole Miss-educated, Big Man on Campus, Good People tale. And the author's deep involvement in and appreciation of Gulf Coast culture add rich l The first thing that I noticed were the enormous Spanish Oak on the cover, which is practically the secret Southern handshake of cover art. White is not just writing about lepers and criminals, he is writing a true story of the South. Some readers may not appreciate the occasional unrelated detail or bit of family history, but they are integral to White's Ole Miss-educated, Big Man on Campus, Good People tale. And the author's deep involvement in and appreciation of Gulf Coast culture add rich layers to this story of social outcasts, both professionally and physically, in one of our country's oldest and strictest societies.

  14. 4 out of 5

    david

    No spoilers. What I convey can be found in the first paragraph of the memoir or on the jacket of the book. Yet another non-fiction book on white collar crime, minimum security prisons, and leprosy, in Louisiana during the 1990's. Cereal please. No fingers, skim milk, if available, warden, Sir.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Shana

    In the early nineties, Neil White was incarcerated in Carville, Louisiana for kiting checks (and don’t ask me to explain what that is because I’m still trying to understand how it all works). As an educated, formerly wealthy man, White had difficulty coming to terms with his prison sentence but soon became interested in the history of the place where he was imprisoned. Carville was actually a sanctuary (or prison, you might say) for U.S. leprosy patients. Many were taken away or brought by their In the early nineties, Neil White was incarcerated in Carville, Louisiana for kiting checks (and don’t ask me to explain what that is because I’m still trying to understand how it all works). As an educated, formerly wealthy man, White had difficulty coming to terms with his prison sentence but soon became interested in the history of the place where he was imprisoned. Carville was actually a sanctuary (or prison, you might say) for U.S. leprosy patients. Many were taken away or brought by their families, never to see them again. In Carville, once the prison was established there, they shared their home of many years with convicted criminals. At first, White is horrified and disgusted by the leprosy patients he encounters. He doesn’t want to catch it or expose his children to it when they come to visit. Yet as he grows accustomed to their presence and talks with them, he learns a whole other side to the story and his compassion grows. As he learns from the mistakes that landed him in prison, he tries to do good and better himself for the sake of his future. This book provides a fascinating history of leprosy patients in the U.S., but it is also a great story about a man who got too greedy, fell from his high status, but ended up a better person for his struggle and mistakes.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Eleanor

    An unexpectedly moving (and funny) memoir! When Neil White was sentenced to Federal Prison in the early 1990's for check kiting, the last place he certainly expected to be incarcerated was in a facility that also served as a community for victims of Hansen's Disease -- leprosy -- many of whom had been quarantined decades earlier and had few or no options for living anywhere else. White, who enters the place with understandable misgivings and a truckload of hubris, emerges over a year later with a An unexpectedly moving (and funny) memoir! When Neil White was sentenced to Federal Prison in the early 1990's for check kiting, the last place he certainly expected to be incarcerated was in a facility that also served as a community for victims of Hansen's Disease -- leprosy -- many of whom had been quarantined decades earlier and had few or no options for living anywhere else. White, who enters the place with understandable misgivings and a truckload of hubris, emerges over a year later with a deeply true sense of himself, and of what he must to do rebuild a life that he admittedly wrecked with greed. We are lucky enough to be introduced to a cast of characters that even the best writers of fiction would be hard put to credibly assemble. While Mr. White does lightly touch on the history of Carville, Louisiana and the medical and religious misunderstandings that led to wholesale quarantine of sufferers of Hansen's disease, he never delves deeply into these areas, and I would recommend John Tayman's masterful history, The Colony: The Harrowing True Story of the Exiles of Molokai for those interested in the subject.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Amy Bender

    The parts of this book that stuck to the history of the leprosarium was fascinating. That said, the author’s sanctimonious blather about himself, his crimes and his “better than you and everyone else” mentality made this book nearly unreadable. He seems like the kind of guy you double check to make sure he’s not at the party before you RSVP’d. Shudder.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    I read this in my book group, and although it wasn't a favorite with any of us, we agreed it was an interesting story, about leprosy and a leper colony, and a man trying to turn his life around. Certainly not a happy, uplifting tale though.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Donna

    This is nonfiction and it is about a year in the life of the author after his bank fraud conviction. He served a one year prison sentence in a minimum security facility that was also a leper colony. I liked the parallels that the author drew as he served his sentence. This was interesting to read and I appreciated some of the honesty in this. He posed some great food for thought, but I think I got lost at times trying to sift out all the "gloss." So 3 stars

  20. 4 out of 5

    Paul Pessolano

    If you liked "The Glass Castle", and, "The Tender Bar" you will love "In the Sanctuary of Outcasts". This is a memoir of Neil White. Neil was always told and believed that he would be "Big" someday. After he graduated from college as a journalist he became a magazine publisher. Life was good; he was married to a beautiful woman and had two lovely children. He also had the best in clothes, cars, and homes. He was generous to the communtiy, church, and friends. The "Good" life was soon to come to a If you liked "The Glass Castle", and, "The Tender Bar" you will love "In the Sanctuary of Outcasts". This is a memoir of Neil White. Neil was always told and believed that he would be "Big" someday. After he graduated from college as a journalist he became a magazine publisher. Life was good; he was married to a beautiful woman and had two lovely children. He also had the best in clothes, cars, and homes. He was generous to the communtiy, church, and friends. The "Good" life was soon to come to a crashing end. He became overextended and was caught "kiting". Kiting is a term used when a person moves money from one account to another account to avoid checks from bouncing. Neil was sentenced to serve eighteen months in a federal prison. He was assigned to the federal prison in Carville, Louisiana. This was a minimum security prisonthat was likened to a country club. Neill soon discovered that it also the last Leprosrium in the United States and that those afflicted with Hansen's disease would be living on the same grounds as the prison inmates. Neil tells of his coming to terms with his "friends" as he would later call them. It took a gradual understanding of the disease and what these people went through to turn him into a person that came to champion their rights. The book is full of odd characters, both from the prison and the Leprosariun. The reader must always keep in mind when reading about these people that their stories are true and these are real people. The most memorable on the prison side were: Frank Ragano, lawyer for mob boss Santo Trafficante who was paid by the CIA to assassinate Fidel Castro. Victor "Doc" Dombrowsky, an actual doctor, who after prison went to Italy and set up a clinic and was convicted of a securities fraud scheme. The most memorable on the Leprosarium side and probably the most influential in changing Neill's life was Ella Bounds. She was placed in Carville as a young girl and probably was as savvy as any psychologist or psychiatrist today. Neill is now working his way back into society with a different outlook on life. In the epilogue of this book he follows the lives of those he met in Carville and the fate of the facility.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Emily Smiley

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I started this book with eagerness- interested in learning more about a place that has lingered in the outskirts of my memory since childhood. My grandmother spent her entire working life as an employee of the hospital (just known as "Carville" growing up). We would visit her at Carville as children and young teens, bringing her lunch or walking the levee. Every Independence Day we would park the entire family on the levee across from the hospital to watch the fireworks that I was told were mean I started this book with eagerness- interested in learning more about a place that has lingered in the outskirts of my memory since childhood. My grandmother spent her entire working life as an employee of the hospital (just known as "Carville" growing up). We would visit her at Carville as children and young teens, bringing her lunch or walking the levee. Every Independence Day we would park the entire family on the levee across from the hospital to watch the fireworks that I was told were meant for the patients. As a child, I felt priviledged to be able to share in that special night, but even then I felt like I was trespassing somehow. My curiosity about the people and history of Carville grew out of the brief images and "grown up talk" that were a formative part of my childhood. So, maybe my expectations were high. Entering the book, I expected to find a speaker with whom I could sympathize; I expected to learn about these people, exiles living just minutes away from where I grew up. Instead I found a man consumed by greed and ambition that essentialy never changes. At the end of the 77th chapter, White uses an analogy involving the non-returnable coke bottles at Carville to illustrate his point that man cannot change the way he is,he can only hope to be used for good. White implies that he is who he is--fame and money will always be important to him--but he hopes to still become a "better" man. Forgive me for my cynicism here, but how does publishing a book about yourself and offering yourself up to speaking engagements show an attempt to "do good"? All I see is another way to get rich and famous, although I'll give him credit for attempting it legally this time. After all is said and done, I'd like to get my money back. I hate to know that I'm contributing to his ambition and greed, even in the smallest way.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

    Neil White was once a very successful publisher of high-end travel magazines. He had everything - a beautiful wife, lovely kids, an exquisite home - and a massively inflated self-image. He started kiting checks, and he got caught and sent to prison. And by an amazing stroke of luck, he was sent to prison in Carville, LA, at the site of the only "leper colony" extant in the US. (Nowadays, people with Hansen's Disease are treated in their own communities.) This is his memoir of that experience, an Neil White was once a very successful publisher of high-end travel magazines. He had everything - a beautiful wife, lovely kids, an exquisite home - and a massively inflated self-image. He started kiting checks, and he got caught and sent to prison. And by an amazing stroke of luck, he was sent to prison in Carville, LA, at the site of the only "leper colony" extant in the US. (Nowadays, people with Hansen's Disease are treated in their own communities.) This is his memoir of that experience, and it is kind of fascinating - mostly, I think, because of the juxtaposition of the medical outcasts - who are, by and large, people of startling goodness, kindness and hard-won wisdom - and the criminal outcasts, whose humanity often seems completely interred beneath unthinking cruelty and hatred. Of Neil himself, it is hard to know what to say. By his own admission, Neil was a con man - a very high-end con man, but a con man nonetheless. He is open about his character flaws, and the ending of the book is very poignant as he prepares to enter the world again, facing the same temptations that he once succumbed to. I wanted to believe in his redemption, because his story is pretty tragic, and I like happy endings. But I still could not help wondering if he was conning me, too. Oh well. The book was well-written enough for me to care about Neil and his family and to wish them well - and to hope that, by spending a year with people whose lives were pared down to bare bones, he was truly able to banish his false self and become the man he was meant to be.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kdevoli

    I thought this memoir was great. An overly-ambitious financier defrauds his banks and investors, and is sent to a minimum security federal prison in Louisiana which also turns out to be the last refuge in the United States for sufferers of leprosy. (The latter are considered "patients" in the facility and have committed no crimes.)Along the way he meets some memorable characters that ultimately help him accept what his new life as an outcast (ex-con) will be like. My favorite part of the book wa I thought this memoir was great. An overly-ambitious financier defrauds his banks and investors, and is sent to a minimum security federal prison in Louisiana which also turns out to be the last refuge in the United States for sufferers of leprosy. (The latter are considered "patients" in the facility and have committed no crimes.)Along the way he meets some memorable characters that ultimately help him accept what his new life as an outcast (ex-con) will be like. My favorite part of the book was the advice the author received from an elderly African American woman, a legless leprosy sufferer who had been dropped off at the facility when she was 12 years old - when he asked her how she deals with the knoweldge that other people regard her with revulsion and fear, she told him, "What other people think of me ain't none of my business." Ultimately she and the other patients give him the courage to move on, and become a better human being in the process.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Karima

    I got a lot more than I bargained for with his one. A friend reviewed this book on Goodreads and as I was reading her review I realized that I had been at Carville prison/leprsorium a few years back. I read the book because of that chance visit. I was totally fascinated by the story; not of the author's misdeeds but the story of Carville. White did an excellent job of portraying the atmosphere of a most unique place. At the very end of the book, as White is nearing his release, he expresses his I got a lot more than I bargained for with his one. A friend reviewed this book on Goodreads and as I was reading her review I realized that I had been at Carville prison/leprsorium a few years back. I read the book because of that chance visit. I was totally fascinated by the story; not of the author's misdeeds but the story of Carville. White did an excellent job of portraying the atmosphere of a most unique place. At the very end of the book, as White is nearing his release, he expresses his hope to find a church. His desire for a church community was very simple. He says that he would pray for recollection-pray that he would never forget. I pray that his prayers are answered.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I gave it three stars for maintaining my interest, the author himself I give 1 star for being an arrogant, narcissistic human. I’m not sure how reliable he is as a narrator. If I met this person on the street, and he told me the sky was blue, I’d fact check. Most of the book was interesting, but I skimmed a little. The parts I skimmed were presented as factual events, but I believe they were exaggerated and overly romanticized for effect (the effect on me being to roll my eyes). “Dancing” with a I gave it three stars for maintaining my interest, the author himself I give 1 star for being an arrogant, narcissistic human. I’m not sure how reliable he is as a narrator. If I met this person on the street, and he told me the sky was blue, I’d fact check. Most of the book was interesting, but I skimmed a little. The parts I skimmed were presented as factual events, but I believe they were exaggerated and overly romanticized for effect (the effect on me being to roll my eyes). “Dancing” with an elderly wheelchair bound patient while she held her arms out like a plane? Give me a break. Shaking the hand of a leper? What a saint (insert congratulatory pat on the back here). The book also jumps around a bit from chapter to chapter. There’s a general lack of adequate transitions. There are also story lines that are left unfinished. For example, the author brings things up (goal for passing rate of GEDs) but doesn’t address that later on. Some of the secondary character development is lacking - that would be okay if the narrator seemed reliable and underwent some sort of believable transformation. I kept reading the book because I was waiting for him to change. He does not. My take away from this book is that even disgusting human beings can publish a book. This would be a good book club book because there’s definitely a lot to discuss.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Susan Beuerlein

    As a history buff, I was entranced by this rich account of Louisiana's Carville Leper Colony and its many residents. Ella was just a child when the authorities discovered her leperosy. Her father gave her a humble feast of her favorite foods, and then he gently accompanied her to Carville, where she would live the rest of her life. Hansen's Disease would rob her of her freedom and her legs, but not her kindness and her dignity. The author was incarcerated for one year at Carville, which for a num As a history buff, I was entranced by this rich account of Louisiana's Carville Leper Colony and its many residents. Ella was just a child when the authorities discovered her leperosy. Her father gave her a humble feast of her favorite foods, and then he gently accompanied her to Carville, where she would live the rest of her life. Hansen's Disease would rob her of her freedom and her legs, but not her kindness and her dignity. The author was incarcerated for one year at Carville, which for a number of years housed prisoners as well as patients (who were the REAL prisoners). I loved Neil White's colorful descriptions of the cons, the prison staff, the Carville priest, and the afflicted men and women who were forcefully quarantined because of ignorance and fear. I awarded three stars because of the author's self-focus and the repetitions that padded the book without adding anything new, but he is to be commended for his personal record of Carville and those who made it their home.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Janet Mott

    This is a true story told by the author of the year he was incarcerated in a minimum security prison for a white collar crime. He came from a wealthy family and his wealth grew through publishing many popular magazines about Oxford, MS and the gulf coast. The interesting thing is this prison also housed lepers who were taken from their families and institutionalized to protect society. Neil was talented and conceited. In that year he met and learned to understand what the lepers had gone through This is a true story told by the author of the year he was incarcerated in a minimum security prison for a white collar crime. He came from a wealthy family and his wealth grew through publishing many popular magazines about Oxford, MS and the gulf coast. The interesting thing is this prison also housed lepers who were taken from their families and institutionalized to protect society. Neil was talented and conceited. In that year he met and learned to understand what the lepers had gone through. His fear of lepers and the prison life changed the way he saw himself. It is a book about how circumstances can bring about dramatic shifts in how a person sees himself and others. It has much humor and much to teach about humanity.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Nanci

    An interesting read about the last leprosy colony in the continental United States. Just like the wonderful book, Molokai', I was surprised that such a place existed in recent times and the way our society treated the people who had the disease. Unlike Molokai', this book does not warrant 4 or 5 stars. There are some really strong reviews, both negative and positive, on GRs. I didn't feel that strongly one way or the other. Yes, the author seems to be spoiled and conceited, but I found the book An interesting read about the last leprosy colony in the continental United States. Just like the wonderful book, Molokai', I was surprised that such a place existed in recent times and the way our society treated the people who had the disease. Unlike Molokai', this book does not warrant 4 or 5 stars. There are some really strong reviews, both negative and positive, on GRs. I didn't feel that strongly one way or the other. Yes, the author seems to be spoiled and conceited, but I found the book to be fast-paced and I laughed and cried throughout it, in spite of the fact that I felt his telling of the story might have been self-serving.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    We have all these preconceived notions about leprosy, regardless of our education, where we were brought up and live, and our age. We can't help it. I was shaped by the visions I conjured in grade school (with the aid of textbooks, of course). The dim rooms, the iron masks, the shrouded figures. Rich and poor, it afflicted all walks of life. Now I know that armadillos spread it, and it's hardly contagious. I know these poor people were ostracised and cast out by families at a young, formidable a We have all these preconceived notions about leprosy, regardless of our education, where we were brought up and live, and our age. We can't help it. I was shaped by the visions I conjured in grade school (with the aid of textbooks, of course). The dim rooms, the iron masks, the shrouded figures. Rich and poor, it afflicted all walks of life. Now I know that armadillos spread it, and it's hardly contagious. I know these poor people were ostracised and cast out by families at a young, formidable age. They spent their lives in lonely exclusion on a crumbling river plantation, eventually shared with inmates. What a great subject for a book. Fortunately for us, Neil White thought so, too.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Tani

    My mother-in-law loaned this book to me. It's not my normal fare, and I'm not really a fan of memoirs, but it was still an easy and readable book. The short chapters made for a quick-moving experience, and Neil White certainly writes nicely. The subject of Carville is quite interesting, and I think White portrays both the patients and the inmates well. I did wonder how much Neil White actually took from the experience. The book definitely shows him changing in some ways, but there are blatant ga My mother-in-law loaned this book to me. It's not my normal fare, and I'm not really a fan of memoirs, but it was still an easy and readable book. The short chapters made for a quick-moving experience, and Neil White certainly writes nicely. The subject of Carville is quite interesting, and I think White portrays both the patients and the inmates well. I did wonder how much Neil White actually took from the experience. The book definitely shows him changing in some ways, but there are blatant gaps in that. Being a woman, I most noticed his frequent slips into objectifying women. My biggest unanswered question from this book was wondering whether he actually changed, or whether he just changed in this one small aspect of his life. One of those things I'll never know, I guess.

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