With Love From The Inside by Angela PiselWith Love From The Inside by Angela Pisel

With Love From The Inside

byAngela Pisel

Hardcover | August 9, 2016

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Angela Pisel’s poignant debut explores the complex relationship between a mother and a daughter, and their quest to discover the truth and whether or not love can prevaileven from behind bars.
 
Grace Bradshaw knows the exact minute she will die. On death row for murdering her infant son, her last breath will be taken on February 15 at 12:01 a.m. Eleven years, five months, and twenty-seven days separate her from the last time she heard her precious daughter’s voice and the final moment she’d heard anyone call her Mom. Out of appeals, she can focus on only one thing—reconnecting with her daughter and making sure she knows the truth.
            Secrets lurk behind Sophie Logan’s big house and even bigger bank account. Every day when she kisses her husband good-bye, she worries her fabricated life is about to come crumbling down. No one knows the unforgivable things her mother did to tear her family apart—not her husband, who is a prominent plastic surgeon, or her “synthetic” friends who live in her upscale neighborhood.
            Grace’s looming execution date forces Sophie to revisit the traumatic events that haunted her childhood. When she returns to her hometown, she discovers new evidence about her baby brother William’s death seventeen years ago—proof that might set her mother free but shatter her marriage forever.
            Sophie must quickly decide if her mother is the monster the prosecutor made her out to be or the loving mother she remembers—the one who painted her toenails glittery pink and plastered Post-it notes with inspiring quotes (“100 percent failure rate if you don't try”) all over Sophie’s bathroom mirror—before their time runs out.
Angela Pisel was born in the Midwest but has set up homes across the United States since marrying an Army physician. As a therapist and life coach, she has taken a special interest in mentoring women throughout various transitions in their lives. She decided to write her first novel after her obsession with TV trials led her to researc...
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Title:With Love From The InsideFormat:HardcoverDimensions:320 pages, 9.35 × 6.37 × 1 inPublished:August 9, 2016Publisher:Penguin Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0399176365

ISBN - 13:9780399176364

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 GRACE The police took “normal” away from me the moment they came rushing into William’s hospital room. They dragged me from his crib, while my helpless baby lay hooked up, struggling to breathe, needing his mother. I had been to doctor after doctor, but no one would listen to me when I tried to tell them something wasn’t right.“Bradshaw, your attorney is here to see you.” An unfamiliar voice barked at me through the steel door and snapped me into the present.Tuesdays were my usual lawyer days, not Thursdays, so the news couldn’t be good. I slid the pen inside my worn leather journal and tossed it on my cot. As I stood, the shooting pain in my back reminded me I was not sleeping at the Hilton.  The stark cold walls, the constant clamor of cursing and flushing toilets wasn't at all how I pictured my life. It was a stagnant existence, every day like the one before and the one after. As unjust as I know that to be, nothing I could do will change my situation or my reputation. The latter, as crazy as it seemed, still mattered most to me even after seventeen years. I would prefer not to be remembered as the monster the local newspapers dubbed me, and especially not as a baby killer.“Hurry up,” a new officer growled through the narrow horizontal opening in the door. “Give me both your hands.” His tone startled me, and I bit the inside corner of my lip, a nervous habit I’d tried and failed to break. This time I tasted blood.I handled officer changes better than some on the row. Jada, I suspected, was right now sitting with her hands clasped around her legs, rocking back and forth like someone residing on a psych ward. She once told me when she was little she never knew who her “daddy” would be when she woke up in the morning. I pictured a four-year-old Jada peering around the corner in footsie pajamas, surveying the situation —praying whoever she might see at the breakfast table would be kind to her. A sanguine version in my mind, but Jada still panics, even more than the rest of us, when an untried voice gives her orders.I placed my left arm through the slit and elevated my right shoulder a bit to get my other arm to cooperate. My limbs had gotten stiff and slow, and sitting in a cell all day didn’t help. The officer pulled my wrists together, snapping the cuffs tighter than necessary before he pushed my arms back through the hole and unlocked the cell door. “Your attorney is waiting on you.” I avoided eye contact with him as he escorted me, kept my eyes on the floor counting the grey concrete slabs to keep calm. My count was interrupted when Roni started screaming.“Keep it down,” the officer snapped, “or you won’t get a shower this week either.” I knew by the sharpness in his voice that he meant what he said.“Ok, Cowboy,” Roni shouted back. “Ok.”Cowboy spelled backwards is YOBWOC, and it stood for Young Obnoxious Bastards We Often Con, (one of the many useless things I’ve learned in prison). I don’t include myself in the “we” part of that acronym—I just do my best to get along—but Roni does. She’s the one in here I’ve tried to connect to the most, the one I’ve tried to help. Maybe it’s because she’s young enough to be my daughter, but for her own sometimes inexplicable reasons, Roni chooses to make trouble whenever she has a chance, or whenever she has no chance at all.   Only four of the seven cells in this wing of the prison were occupied on Death Row, but only outsiders called it that. Those who resided here called it Hotel Hell. On the inside, hope was something no one seemed to believe in except for me.Mainly, I just missed the ordinary. The uncomplicated, taken-for-granted things like the sound of my husband’s house keys rattling the front door at exactly two minutes before six o’clock, or the buzzer on the duct-taped dryer door signaling a load of warm towels was ready to be folded; the gritty feel of the hot driveway on my bare feet as I walked to the mail box to raise the rusted red flag, or sitting in my cold minivan making sure the windows defrosted before driving my daughter to school. Or burying my face in the space between William’s chest and his rolled chin just to smell his sweet baby-powdered scent after he had a bath. The officer squeezed my upper arm as he guided me through the vacant day room and buzzed us through one door and then another before we entered one of the attorney-client holding rooms. “Room” was a generous term, but at least it was bigger than my cell and offered some contact, meaning my attorney could shake my handcuffed hands if he so desired or slide a paper across the chipped Formica table without hitting glass.Ben Taylor stood when I entered. He’d represented me for the past five years and had become one of the few non-institutionalized faces I saw. His face today didn’t look that good.“Hello Grace, please take a seat.” I sat down with my feet and hands still cuffed.“Ben, how are you?” I was delaying, wanting to hear anything other than the news I feared he was about to give me.“I’m fine.” His slight southern accent made whatever awful words he was about to tell me sound more tolerable. Most of the guard and many of the inmates here had come from all over. Ben’s soft tone reminded me of home.“Have you found her?” I asked, hoping he would give me something to cling to.“I’m sorry, Grace. My office still has not been able to get in touch with her.”After all these years, I still woke in the morning with a sweat-soaked shirt stuck to my skin, dreaming about my daughter sitting alone at her dad’s funeral. Abandoned. I knew I couldn’t make my daughter forgive me, believe me, or even come to see me, but I wouldn’t stop hoping. I’d stopped calling many years ago, figuring the refusal of collect calls meant the expense was too much for her to handle. Eleven years, five months, and twenty-seven days separated me from the last time I’d heard her voice—the last time I’d heard anyone call me Mom. A word I’d never longed to hear until I did.“That’s not why I’m here,” he said. “I am afraid we didn’t get the news we had hoped for. The court refused to hear the latest appeal.”I dropped my head and tried not to make my attorney, my only believer, feel any worse than I knew he already did. Whatever hope I’d carried into the room had fled by the time I looked up.My lawyer rubbed his forehead. “Grace, the judge has set your execution date.” SOPHIE          Sophie knew she’d made mistakes. The kind of mistakes an “I’m sorry” wouldn’t erase and a “please understand” wouldn’t go far to repair. Not after all this time. The car in her driveway, her oversized lake house, and her bulging bank account made her life look perfect on the surface. By anyone else’s standards, she should be fulfilled, ecstatic, but…Maybe it was because she was turning thirty this year, but her heart seemed to be catching up with her deception and she hated that feeling.She sat where she did every morning after Thomas left for work—with her coffee on the veranda off the master bedroom overlooking the lake. This spot helped quiet her mind and energize her for the day ahead. At least it usually did. But this October morning felt different somehow.         She set her mug down and snuggled as deep as she could into her chenille bathrobe. The sharp chill in the air caused her hands to shiver and she looked down at them, wishing she still had the red snowflake mittens she’d worn as a little girl. Holes on both of them, right at the tops of her palms under the first two fingers, from hours of raking leaves in her backyard, just so she could jump in and bury herself in the pile, counting the seconds until her dad would find her. Sophie, Sophie, come out wherever you are. After many minutes of pretending he had no idea where she was, her dad would fall into the pile on top of her. She felt like she’d never stop giggling. “You got me good this time, pumpkin,” he would say to her.          Sophie tried to recall the last time she’d actually done something like that just for the fun of it, or experienced some overpowering emotion other than the flat line she had grown accustomed to. She did feel happy when she laid her head on her husband Thomas and watched his chest rise up and down as he slept, or when she put together puzzles with children at the hospital, but those feelings were short-lived.          She shook her head, scolding herself for the psychoanalysis, and decided to push whatever these strange emotions were back to the unexamined place she kept in a carefully tucked away corner of her mind. She controlled her life now. No one could take that from her, not anymore.          Her thoughts were interrupted by her vibrating phone. Seven new emails, two new texts, and one missed call. Guess my walk down memory lane affected my hearing. One text from Thomas, one from Mindy, and a call from a number she did not recognize.She was typing a reply to Thomas when Mindy’s text vibrated again.  Not coming today, talk to you later, will still help with fundraiser. She checked the clock on her phone. The time for figuring out her tangled lack of emotions had expired. She needed to get going.                                                        ###Sophie hated Thursdays. Ever since they’d bought a house in West Lake several years ago, Thomas had insisted it would be good for her to get to know some of the other women in the neighborhood. Sophie resisted at first—faking end of the week migraines and even an ankle sprain—until Thomas noticed a pattern and forced the issue. “You’ve  got to get out of this house and make some friends.”After a few months, she finally gave in and started attending the monthly meetings the women called “the book club.” Sophie secretly called the women “the synthetics.” A room full of designer-dressed plastic ladies sitting around drinking margaritas while discussing the latest scandals lurking within their gated community. The books they were supposed to be reading never came up.Sophie didn’t exclude herself from that less-than-complimentary stereotype. On more than one occasion she’d presented herself to be something she was not. It wasn’t that the ladies hadn’t been nice to Sophie since she and Thomas moved into the neighborhood. Most had been welcoming, since the first day actually, when a few of them brought a large welcome basket of wine and cheese and left it by the front door. It had a note attached: Sorry we missed you! Dinner at the Parkers’ Friday night?Before that first dinner at the Parker’s, she’d changed outfits three times, ran to the bathroom to throw-up twice, all before finally settling on a tweed blazer and dark blue jeans.         Mindy Parker (who happened to work at the same hospital as Thomas) had put Sophie at ease right away, and she and Sophie had developed somewhat of a friendship since that night. Maybe it was the way her house looked. Clean, but not perfect; functional, but not organized. Chocolate cookie crumbs and milk drops lingered on the kitchen counter and shouted Mindy was not trying to impress anyone. Sophie envied that attitude. Mindy always let her two-year-old twin girls say hello and goodnight to everyone before excusing herself to tuck them into bed.Mindy’s friend Eva, however, wasn’t as genuine. Sophie could picture her as an 8th grader, pointing and whispering at an unfortunate misfit, unlucky enough to have inherited an older exiled siblings hand-me-downs. Sophie could feel Eva’s eyes scanning her fashion selection whenever she walked into a room, and she always seemed a little too interested when Thomas told a story. Sophie wasn’t normally the jealous type, but something about Eva’s smile when she looked at him made her more than a little uncomfortable.While Thomas socialized with all of the husbands they had met in the neighborhood on occasion to play tennis or a round of golf, Mindy was the only relationship Sophie had cared to foster outside of the book club and other cursory social events. Even that friendship had gotten only so deep. The less people knew about her the better.                                                ###All the usual “book club” cars were present and accounted for when Sophie pulled her Land Rover behind Eva’s brand-new red BMW. She could see Eva and three other women (all of whose names escaped Sophie) walking in, chatting with fast and flippy hand movements, and whispering about something Sophie wasn’t quite sure she wanted to hear. Since no one ever seemed interested in discussing their assigned book, Sophie had turned the monthly meetings into planning events for her latest endeavor—a fund she had created for indigent children at St. John’s Hospital.To raise money, she was planning a Secret Chef fundraiser that she described as: A soon-to-be annual wine and food tasting event that will boast the most culinary delectable dishes ever served in the south. The Chefs and their restaurants will “surprise” the highest bidders with sensational award packages sure to satisfy even the pickiest palates—or something along those lines. Sophie fine-tuned her pitch as she grabbed her laptop out of the back of her SUV.“Did you hear about Stephen?” Eva said before she had a chance to set her bag down or take off her jacket. Sophie, not sure if Eva meant to include her, didn’t immediately respond. “Did you hear me? Did you hear what’s going on with Stephen?”Sophie didn’t want to appear out of the loop or give Eva the satisfaction of knowing about whatever was happening first quickly replied, “Yes, heard about it last night. Thomas told me. I can’t believe it.” A calculated response, since she had no idea what was going on with Stephen. But one thing she knew for sure––Eva loved to be the first to give details.         “Well, for those of you who don’t know…” Eva launched into the gossip without taking a breath. “Stephen moved out. Mindy is devastated, they just put in a pool and all. One bejeweled hand flipped her shiny hair over her shoulder. “I can’t totally blame him. Have you seen Mindy lately? Not exactly keeping herself up. Never met an ice-cream cone she didn’t like.”                    All the ladies but Sophie laughed. She didn’t run to Mindy’s defense, but she didn’t laugh. Did she get credit for partial loyalty? She hadn’t talked to Mindy for a couple weeks and, granted, their conversations weren’t all that deep, but problems with Stephen—she had no idea.                  “Ready to get started?” Kate, the hostess for the day said while narrowing her eyes in Eva’s direction. She handed Sophie a mimosa and then subtly motioned for her to turn the conversation away from Mindy’s personal life.               Sophie pulled out her laptop and began to go over the first item on her agenda.            “Wait, wait, wait,” Eva interjected immediately. “I hear you’re hiding something from us.”             Sophie pretended to check the wall for the nearest outlet praying that when she looked up Eva’s fake eyelashes would be batting in someone else’s direction.             “Sophie, I am talking to you.” Eva shrilled the personal pronoun part of that sentence when Sophie failed to turn around. “We read the newspapers, you know?”            Sophie bent over to plug the cord into her already fully charged computer, her face feeling like it could melt off.Do they know? This moment, the one she feared the most, had played out in her mind a million times before. All with varying degrees of who finds out what first and when. How will she ever make them understand?             “For God sakes, Sophie. What’s wrong with you? You look like you chipped a tooth, or something. You should be proud of Thomas,” Eva continued, starting the hand flipping thing again. “The story was all over the newspapers this morning. Michael called me from his car to see if I’d seen it.”            “Thomas, in the newspaper?”  Sophie braced herself against the side of wall, relieved her sinking sand stayed loyal for another day.Eva let out an exaggerated sigh. “Your husband is operating on that little girl today. For Freeeeee! You know the one who got her face burned?”Sophie vaguely remembered hearing the story on the news. Something about a six-year-old tripping over an electric skillet cord.“I had no idea.” Sophie averted her eye batting and tried to hide the fact she hated it when Eva knew something about her husband that she didn’t.“I knew his hands were created to do fine things,” Eva purred. “Don’t you agree?”          The implied familiarity made Sophie uneasy and annoyed. How would she know? Was she a patient of his? Sophie studied Eva’s plump red lips for signs of collagen.         “It’s nice to know you find Thomas’s hands attractive,” Kate butted in with a stiff smile, “but let’s get back to the reason we’re here.”         Eva started to backpedal, but Sophie cut her short. Using her mimosa as a microphone, she said, “Right, the fundraiser.” She tapped on the rim. “Is this thing on?”“It may not be on, but it’s sure empty.” Kate grabbed the pitcher and filled Sophie’s glass to the top.Sophie took a long sip and summoned the version of herself she wanted everyone else to see. After the mimosas started to kick in, she pulled out her three-ring binder filled with to-do lists and due dates and started handing out assignments.  GRACE Grace Bradshaw, Laken State Penitentiary, Death Row. It’s how my mail—mostly legal correspondence from my in-and-out state-appointed attorneys—had been addressed for the past seventeen years. I knew, given my conviction and current occupancy in the ward where prisoners await execution, that this conversation had to happen at some point, but in all that time I’d been here, no one had actually been put to death.The rumors about the governor must be true. The state was cleaning house, and they were beginning with me. The sound of something clinking together stopped my thoughts. My handcuffs. Ben heard it too and reached across the eroded coffee-stained table to stop my hands from shaking. Before he reached them, however, the officer standing guard snarled out a reminder of the limited-contact rule.“Grace, I will not give up on you.” Ben’s voice lowered. He glanced over to see if the officer was watching before he put his hand under my chin. I noticed new lines on his forehead that had formed since the last time he’d visited. “I promise I’ll find a way to help. I took your case because I believed you. Now that I have gotten to know you better, I’m certain you do not deserve to be here. You are not who they say you are.”Who they say I am. I’d struggled with that sentence from the moment I’d been accused. Munchausen by proxy was how the prosecutor explained my crime. As in, one of those crazy mothers from horror movies that purposefully make their children sick for attention and sympathy. A catchy, devastating term that had made for quite the splashy headlines. The twelve people of the jury sat stone-faced, fixated on every damaging word, while I remained motionless, trying to envision this monster he described. A depressed mother who never wanted a second child, a lonely pastor’s wife so crazed for attention she made her baby sick. His libretto—slow and deliberate, calculating but sincere—made William’s death seem like a series of events I plotted for some sick reason.The man elected by the courts to represent the people never once set foot on my lattice-framed front porch, nor cared to ask me about the horror of losing a child.He never witnessed me comfort a crying William in the way only my breast could. Never saw me pace around the family room, gently rocking my baby in my arms, praying he wouldn’t get sick again. He didn’t see me wet a towel to wipe the blood trailing down my daughter’s skinned knee, then remain by her side until the itsy bitsy spider made her giggle again. I may not have won any awards for parenting, but I loved my children as much as anyone.The jury bought the prosecutor’s tale of how William became better in the care of others, but sick again when I alone cared for him. The man with a different colored paisley tie for every day of the three-week-long trial convinced twelve jurors of the culpability of one.Who they say I am. I’d hoped the jury could see me as I was, sift through the fabrications and one misrepresented event. Instead…it was worse than I ever let myself imagine beforehand. How could twelve out of twelve people vote to have me killed? That thought still caused me panic.“Five minutes.” The officer held up his spread hand.         “Grace,” Ben said softly, “I’m still trying to find her.”“I know you are, but it is hard to find someone who doesn’t want to be found. I think I’m already dead to her.”“I have someone searching university records, past addresses, things of that sort. Is it possible she might have changed her name?"I had thought of all these possibilities, a thousand times, and still did not have an answer to give him. I shrugged.“Promise me you’ll do one thing for me.” I tried to control the shake in my voice. “Give her my journal when I’m gone.”                                                        ###         “I’ll escort Bradshaw,” a familiar pleasant voice whispered to the other officer. I sat in a metal chair with my hands cuffed to a leather belt buckled around my waist. The restraints limited my physical movements, but my thoughts ran all over the place, trying to process the news I’d received from my attorney.                      I looked up into kind green eyes and the face of Officer Jones. “I’m sorry,” Officer Jones said, a crease forming between her brows. “I know that wasn’t the news you were hoping to hear.”         In a more normal situation, like being told I could live twelve to fourteen months if the chemo worked, or finding out my husband of thirty-three years had died in a car accident, I would’ve fallen on her shoulder and sobbed until I had no tears left. Instead, I said nothing and gave her a small nod.         I get the feeling that Officer Jones likes me, or at least believes something good lives within me. We’ve never talked about my conviction because she already knew what I’d been accused of. Everyone did. My face, to hear some of the staff talk, used to be on every TV and radio station in the US and in Canada, until finally the coverage died down and moved on to some serial killer murdering prostitutes in Nevada.         Office Jones was one of the few female officers who worked on the row long before I arrived. I assumed she was in her late fifties, based on her seven grandkids, but I never dared to ask her personal questions. Instead, we covered generic carpool topics, like her plans for retirement: “Just 23 months and 15 days until this lady”—she would use both thumbs to point to herself—“is out of here.”I never thought I’d be the one leaving first.“This isn’t over yet. The governor can still stop this.” She helped me stand and steady myself, a task that proved harder than I’d thought. My legs wobbled.The newly elected governor had run on the promise of swift justice. I wasn’t sure it was wise to hope for his help. I attempted to look on the bright side: Wasn’t there some comfort in knowing the end of my story? A sense of control, perhaps, over writing my own obituary, filling in the exact date that comes after the hyphen. I could ballpark a pretty close time of death and maybe let people know about my state-run, graveside funeral. The problem was, I wasn’t sure who would come.“Come on,” Officer Jones said, “keep your chin up. You’ve never been one to give up on anything. Fight for that daughter you’ve been telling me about. Sophie, right? Fight for Sophie.”Hearing my daughter’s name spoken in a kind way by someone other than my attorney was more than I could handle. I dropped my head into my shackled hands and began to cry.I didn’t speak with Officer Jones as she escorted me back. Instead, I did the only thing that calmed me when I couldn’t stand this place anymore. I let my mind go to six-year-old Sophie in high pigtails, front tooth missing and a Christmas morning smile, handing me a bottle of Sally Hansen’s Hard as Enamel purple glitter nail polish. Please, Mommy, can we use this sparkly one?All the way back to my cell, I painted Sophie’s fingernails one by one, with perfect strokes, blowing each nail between the coats until they were dry and her hands looked perfect. SOPHIE          She’d just finished lighting the last candle when Thomas walked through the side door leading in from their garage. His phone plastered to his ear, he was still giving the nurses orders: “Up her pain meds to what we discussed. Call me if her temperature is over 100.5.” He blew Sophie a kiss as soon as he saw her.         Eight forty-five in the evening seemed to be his usual time of arrival, rather than the exception these days. Sophie didn’t complain; when Thomas was home he made her feel like she was the only person in his busy world that mattered.         Pad Thai, spring rolls and sushi were arranged on coordinating black-and-red-and-yellow flowered platters, while the take-out containers lurked in the dumpster by the garage. She knew he didn’t actually think she cooked all this herself, but she loved to give him that impression.         “Hey baby.” He kissed her on the cheek, then tossed his keys and cell phone onto the ivory granite countertop. “I’m starving.”         “Hi, handsome. Save any lives today?”         “I improve lives—not save them.” He grinned. It was a standing rhetoric the two had had since they’d started dating a few months after Thomas began his plastic surgery fellowship.         She knew Thomas loved his job. And she loved the way he described his work, even jokingly comparing himself to Frank Lloyd Wright. If his patients, or clients as he liked to call them, wanted some additions, he could do that. If clients needed some subtractions, he could do that as well. No one was too young and no body too old to deserve a little renovation. Lately, most of his female clients—and most of them were women—wanted additions on the upper floor.         Sophie didn’t mind. Breast augmentation paid the bills, financed some pretty elaborate vacations, and allowed her to live in a house that had been featured on more than one regional magazine cover. She could overlook the fact that Thomas had touched more breasts than Hugh Hefner had.         “How was your meeting?” he asked while he opened a package of soy sauce. “Talk anybody into helping you with the fundraiser?”“I did. I have most of the key committee chairs lined up. I still want to give Mindy something to do.” She picked up her spring roll from her plate and peeled back the overly fried top layer. “Did you know she and Stephen were having problems?”Thomas leaned back in his chair and tossed the empty packet of soy sauce in the trash. “I think I heard Eva say something about it when she was dropping off samples at the office the other day.”“Eva’s working again?” She didn’t know what to be more shocked about—Stephen and Mindy or Eva’s access to Thomas.“A couple days a week. The drug company gave her a salary she couldn’t refuse. She’s taking samples around to a few offices in the area.”Great, Sophie thought. Not only do we have to live in the same neighborhood with Malibu Barbie, but Thomas gets to see her at the office too. “Can you hand me a napkin?” he asked, interrupting her jealous thoughts. “I missed you today.” His wide smile reinforced his words.         Most parts of her believed him. The other jagged misfit pieces still felt unworthy and lost, frantically trying to find their way back to where they fit and felt protected. To her once-unbroken place, her existence before her mom killed William and shattered Sophie’s life.           Thomas’s pager went off before the sushi was gone.         “It’s the hospital.” He pushed his plate back and looked at the numbers on his pager. “Have a kid not doing so well.”         “The little girl with the scars?”         “You saw the paper?” Thomas paused the twirling of his noodles around the fork.         “I saw Eva.” Sophie leaned over and wiped some sauce off the corner of Thomas’s mouth. “I knew my husband had a soft spot for children hidden somewhere inside there.”         He hated treating kids, and Sophie knew it. Not that he didn’t like children—they were just more challenging and he didn’t like to make them cry. Most of their problems were a result of birth defects, accidents, or because of an incompetent ER doc who couldn’t sew. The parents were usually overprotective and hovering, making Thomas’s job even harder. The child would inevitably squirm, shift on the exam table, and eventually cry before Thomas would have to ask his nurse to hold the kid down.         “I’ll call the hospital from the car. Come with me and you can see Mindy. I think she’s on tonight.”         “I’d love too,” Sophie said as she stuffed down the rest of her spring roll. “May be the only way I can spend time with my popular husband.”                                                                 ###         Thomas ran ahead of Sophie down the long, deserted hospital corridor. The phone call from the car hadn’t gone well. Sophie had listened over the speakerphone as Anna, the nurse on two west said, “Your six-year-old post-surgical graft patient in room 216, she’s not doing so well, pulse is rapid and irregular, temperature 104.9. Her mother called the nurse’s station because she seemed confused.” “Okay,” Thomas replied, then paused. Sophie could tell by his silence he was trying to find the reason why the girl had gone south after a routine surgery. Before he could come up with any good explanation, the nurse shouted in the phone, “Dr. Logan, better get here quick, oxygen levels are dropping. She doesn’t look good.”Sophie followed him as he rushed towards the girl’s room, giving orders to the nurse on his cell phone from the parking lot. His six-foot, three-inch build exuded confidence and commanded respect. Even in a crisis, Thomas remained composed and certain.Sophie paid attention to the way other women looked at him. The way they followed his instructions without hesitation or doubt. She noticed details like the way his graphite eyes tapered when he concentrated, but became almost round when he had something important to say. His steady hands had propelled him to the top of his plastics fellowship, and then to a position at one of the top hospitals in the southeast. He was as talented as he was good looking.Still, Sophie knew things Thomas would never know. Disgusting, never-discussed things, like the wrenching smell of feces and the shape it takes when rubbed on a dingy prison wall. Images a child should be protected from—those were the ones that formed the backdrop of Sophie’s last memories of her mom.Thomas’s Ivy League education had prepared him for many things, but Sophie’s real life had taught her lessons you couldn’t pay to learn. His childhood had consisted of play dates and lacrosse games, while her Saturdays in high school had been spent taking the bus back and forth to visit her mother. She was never sure whether she visited because of obligation or loneliness, but every Saturday while other teenage girls were trying on prom dresses or squeezing into bikinis at the mall, she’d boarded the bus, robotically paid her fare, and stayed with her mom as long as prison visiting hours would allow—until one Saturday she didn’t anymore.Marrying Thomas had given her a fresh start, a clean slate. One that could be written with the words of a life she was supposed to have, deserved to have. No one, she’d decided, would ever know her shame, or the scandal that had ripped apart a little girl’s fairy tale.Sophie hadn’t consciously decided to fake her way into a more privileged world. Her fate had happened to her, set in motion the day Thomas walked into the Starbucks where she was working to pay her way through grad school. Her dad’s life insurance had covered college and some of her current classes, but paying for an apartment and food was another thing. Her green employee apron, stained with God knew what, had been what she was wearing when she met her future husband. He would tell her a few months later that it was crazy love at first sight. For Sophie, it was like a dream come true. His dark wavy hair and pinstriped blue-and-white Ralph Lauren dress shirt, tucked into perfectly pressed khakis, had signaled he was out of her league. She hadn’t dated much, but the guys in her life didn’t come in looking like Thomas or ride out driving the kind of car he did.She couldn’t believe it when he asked her out two weeks and seven lattes later. Now green aprons, taking orders, and listening to people complain about their coffee were a thing of the past. She was the wife of Dr. Thomas Logan and the daughter of no one.                                                     ###           Thomas consulted with the nurses on duty while Sophie searched the hallway for Mindy. “Hey,” she said when Mindy finally appeared from behind a pile of charts on the unit secretary’s desk. “You have a second to talk?”“I will as soon as I’m finished drawing my meds.” Mindy looked out of order and her flat-ironed hair seemed even more worn. Chunks had started to rebel and wave in the wrong direction around her rounded face. “I know someone who has time for you,” Mindy said as she pulled a rubber band off of her wrist and corralled her red hair (paprika red, as Mindy described it. “My stupid hair looks likes a garnishment on a damn deviled egg”). She tied it off in a French knot, then pointed to the room located directly in front of the nurse’s station. “He’s been asking for you.”Max’s face lit up when Sophie walked into his room. Sesame Street was just ending on TV. She reached for the remote sitting on the table next to his bed and turned it off before public television forced Max to watch some French chef make chocolate soufflé with a twist of rum.Max, who had just turned three, still needed the rails of the bed up when he was unsupervised. Sophie lowered one and sat on the edge of the mattress beside her favorite hospital resident. “Hey, little man, how are you doing today?”Max placed his index finger over his throat to cover the surgically created hole from a tracheostomy and with a raspy voice said, “Puzwle.”“Puzwle,” Sophie teased. “What is that?”Max, now sitting up and bouncing on his bent knees, pointed across the room to the circus puzzle he and Sophie had been working on for the last few weeks.“Puzwle,” Max said, giggling. “Over there.”“Oh, you mean puzzle,” she said, gently poking Max in the tummy. “I’ll get it for you.”She scooted Max back to the center of the bed, then retrieved the puzzle from the table under the windows. “Think we will ever finish this thing?”Max held up both of his arms and wiggled every finger, making it impossible for Sophie not to pick him up and set him on her lap as they searched for the missing piece that would finish the white unicorn on the carousel.She found the corner piece before Max did and slid it to the edge of the table away from the distractions of the other pieces. Her plan worked. Max squealed in delight as he picked up the piece and said, “Horsie done.”Mindy, who was Max’s nurse for the day, walked in just in time to witness his victory. “Good job, Max. You’re such a smart little boy. Who’s your helper?” She winked at Sophie. Max ignored her, intent on finding the piece that would complete the elephant’s ear.“Any news on finding this guy a foster family?” Sophie whispered while Mindy prepared his medications. Max’s premature birth had left him with underdeveloped lungs, which was why he had the tracheostomy. His mother, Sophie had heard, couldn’t handle the responsibilities of caring for an infant with such severe special needs. “Not yet, not with all his care. Going to take a special family for this one,” Mindy said, then converted the first dose of medication into an bunny rabbit hopping towards Max’s unwilling mouth. He’d been placed in a few homes, as far as Sophie knew, but nothing permanent. His need for constant suctioning and breathing treatments had worn the last family out. And his health didn’t appear to be getting any better. Lately, he seemed to be in the hospital more than out.Sophie had met Max quite by accident. His occupational therapist had been giving him a ride through the hospital gift shop in an oversized plastic green wagon and Sophie, who was volunteering in the unit, caught a glimpse of his big, gap-toothed smile when they went wheeling by. His messy blond hospital hair and large brown eyes captivated her heart, and her growing relationship with him eventually set in motion her idea to start her fund for needy children on the pediatric ward.She’d convinced Thomas to be the figurehead behind the fundraising effort, but not before he attempted to persuade her not to get too involved with Max. “He has social workers to help him,” said Thomas. “Besides, I don’t want you to get attached to him and get your heart broken.”Her heart was already broken, and maybe in some small way Max could help change that. She and Max had a connection, and if she couldn’t help William, couldn’t she at least help Max?“Here comes Peter Cottontail,” Mindy said in her best furry voice. As Sophie looked on, she noticed Mindy’s left hand was missing her wedding ring. She was about to ask her about Stephen, but before she could, a fury of activity in the hallway interrupted their conversation. “Code red in room 216, code red in room 216,” shouted a voice over the PA system. Mindy immediately got up to leave. “I think that’s Thomas’s patient. Be back as soon as I can.”Sophie tucked Max into bed and then closed his door. She didn’t want him to be startled any more than she assumed he already was. However, Max, to her surprise, didn’t seem to notice the hospital hustle and bustle, but busied himself making a pretend rocket ship out of a folded lunch menu.She dimmed the lights since it was after ten, and pulled his favorite book, The Velveteen Rabbit, out of his top drawer. “I like wabbits, not bunnies,” he’d told her the last time she read it to him. It was clear to her she needed Max more than he needed her right now, but at least he nodded his head when he saw the book and tossed the makeshift rocket to the floor.He scoured his bed for his Toy Story blanket. Sophie helped in the search, undoing his sheets in three out of the four corners. The bed looked as if a tornado had blown through, causing them both to laugh when they noticed Buzz Lightyear and the gang had been hiding under the bed the entire time.“Come here, silly boy.” She picked up Max and carried him to the mauve recliner angled in the corner of the room. “Buzz Lightyear can try to hide, but he’s no match for you.”She gave Max the book to look at while she attempted to reassemble the bed. When she glanced over at Max, his tired head was bobbing.The commotion in the hallway seemed to have died down, so she picked up a sleeping Max and tucked him into his bed. She put his favorite blanket under his floppy arm.“Sleep well, sweet boy, sleep well,” she whispered into his ear before pressing a goodbye kiss into his chubby cheek.Sophie walked down the hallway trying to find Thomas. The sound of muffled voices led her to a small lounge at the entrance of the pediatric ward, directly across from the elevators. Through the slightly open doorway she could see Thomas talking to a young, thirty-something couple. She eavesdropped while she poured herself some coffee from the mobile cart parked in the hallway. “You said this operation would be a piece of cake, Dr. Logan. You said our daughter would be okay,” said a man wearing faded blue jeans and a Blue Devils t-shirt. He spoke slowly as if trying to process his own words. “What went wrong?” the mother asked, her question drenched by her tears. She had both arms wrapped around a grey stuffed elephant and held it to her chest.Thomas’s face was pale and his white oxford shirt wrinkled. His suit jacket and tie lay beside him over the arm of the chair. Sophie watched as he searched for something to say. Her confident, capable husband appeared unable to find the words to make the situation less painful, or make any sense of it at all.The expressions on the parents’ faces would forever be embedded in Sophie’s mind. Shock and sadness, alternating with anger, then disbelief. A carousel of emotions Sophie had seen years before on the faces of her own grieving parents. A haunting gaze that could only be replicated by those who had lost a child. “I’m not sure what went wrong with—with…” Thomas stuttered. “The autopsy will tell us more. I’ve done this procedure multiple times, and I’ve never had a bad outcome.” His pager beeped, and Sophie saw him take it out of his pocket to look at it. “Dr. Logan,” said the father, his voice escalating. The man stood up, over Thomas, with his sobbing wife’s head braced up against the side of his trembling leg. “This bad outcome was named Isabel, and your bad outcome, as you like to call it, was our daughter.”

Bookclub Guide

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:1.      The theme of forgiveness is explored throughout the book. Grace needed to forgive herself for her shortcomings as a mother to both William and Sophie, while Sophie needed proof of her mother’s innocence before she could offer forgiveness. Do you think either character found the forgiveness she was seeking?   2.      How did Paul’s premature death affect Grace’s time on death row? Do you think her conviction would have been overturned if Paul had lived? How might Sophie’s life have been different if her father had lived?   3.      Sophie moved on with her life after she graduated from high school and decided to keep her family’s secrets in the past. Do you think she made the right decision?   4.      Do you think Thomas and his family would have accepted Sophie initially if they had known the truth about her mother?   5.      The values of Sophie’s family were vastly different from the values of Thomas’s family. What values or lessons did Grace want to make sure were passed on to Sophie? Why do you think Thomas and Sophie’s marriage survived the deception?   6.      For most of her time on death row, Grace seemed to experience more “freedom” while living on the inside than Sophie experienced on the outside. Why do you think this was the case?   7.      The characters on death row came from different backgrounds, but all were convicted of murder. How were the women similar? How were they different? Did your view of women on death row change after reading this novel?   8.      What surprised you the most about death row? What most saddened you?  

Editorial Reviews

"A chilling and mesmerizing novel."—Charlotte Observer"A touching story of love and forgiveness in the face of adversity."—Booklist"Briskly paced....An admirable debut."—Kirkus Reviews"A thoughtful...story of mothers and daughters, heavily weighted with sentiment...this should appeal to readers of issue-based novels by Jodi Picoult or Chris Bohjalian."—Library Journal"Like nothing else I've read this year, With Love from the Inside chronicles a mother awaiting her execution on death row for ostensibly killing her infant son.  The writing in this novel is so strong and its message of forgiveness so powerful that it brought me to tears."—Elin Hilderbrand, New York Times bestselling author of The Rumor"Powerful, provocative, and written with a rare grace. This novel will steal your breath—and your heart."—Sarah Pekkanen, author of Things You Won't Say“With Love from the Inside is a gripping page-turner wrought with conflict, mystery, and life or death stakes. Angela Pisel ushers readers down the bleak corridors of death row, while simultaneously weaving a stunning tale of love and hope and faith. I fell in love with this tragic mother-daughter love story, a heart-wrenching illustration of the strength of the mother-daughter bond, the resiliency of the human spirit, and the power of forgiveness. Bittersweet and emotionally charged, With Love from the Inside is a perfect choice for book clubs. With Love from the Inside is a book that lingers long after the last page is read.” —Lori Nelson Spielman, #1 international bestselling author of The Life List and Sweet Forgiveness"With Love from the Inside is a page-turning tale of redemption, forgiveness, and the unending bonds of love. Pisel has written a gripping and emotional novel that is ultimately a love letter between mothers and daughters that will you have routing for both until the last page."—Elizabeth L. Silver, author of The Execution of Noa P. Singleton“If you believed your mother murdered your baby brother, would you forgive her?  If, after she'd spent more than a decade on death row and was closing in on her execution date, you concluded she hadn't done it after all, would you forgive yourself?  In this beautifully rendered and gripping tale, Angela Pisel explores these questions as nobody has before, and along the way takes us inside the daily dehumanization of death row.  Pisel is a novelist to watch, and this debut will stay with me for a very long time.“—David R. Dow, author of The Autobiography of an Execution and founder of the Texas Innocence Network“A moving and skillfully crafted portrayal of a death-row inmate and her family. Pisel delivers well-drawn characters who humanize the heartache and trauma of this emotional situation. Through the eyes of Grace, we see a very visual perspective of prison life--humiliation, degradation, self-doubt, and state of hopelessness. Deftly written, With Love from the Inside realistically portrays how anyone can become a victim of circumstances, in prison or out. A powerful and heart wrenching debut.”—Forgiven Ministry