The Prisoner’s Wife by Asha Bandele is a love story of young woman and man that fall in love in the hopeless place. They find their happiness in the prison. Asha Bandele, the writer and the main character of the book, teaches as through it that there are no obstacles that true love cannot overcome. Moreover, she shows that love can help person to return to the good way and turn over a new leaf. One more topic that is discussed in the book is problems of relationships not only between two lovers but between them and the society which does not want to accept such kind of love. The author admits that people usually have many prejudices to the love relationship of criminals as they believe that they cannot form an exemplary family and give all necessary conditions to their children. This topic is closely related with the next one - the problem of understanding. Asha Bandele pays special attention to the importance of understanding for couples. Moreover, she reveals that understanding inside the couple is necessary as well as outside. She states that it is difficult to find understanding in society where no one respects Black people and their love, especially love of criminals. Though, through the entire book Asha Bandele carries the idea of love, relationship and understanding and one the most important – the idea of healing. She believes that every person (especially prisoner) can change his bad behavior if to give him a little bit more understanding, support and love.
In the first passage of The prisoner’s Wife, Asha Bandele defines the essential nature of her book. She writes simple words – “this is a love story like every love story I had always known, like no love story I could ever have imagined. It’s everything beautiful – bright colors, candle-scented rooms, orange silk, and lavender amethyst. It’s everything grotesque, disfigured. It ‘s long twisting wounds, open and unhealed, nerves pricked raw, exposed” (Bandele 13). By these words she introduces her story to readers. She helps them to tune in to a wave of feelings emotions and love. Bandele describes her first meeting with prisoner, Rashid, her future husband, as meeting through the poetry. She as a college student came to the New York State Prison to read poetry for a class of prisoners. It is difficult to believe but the young woman in such hopeless for good feelings place managed to notice not only physical attractiveness of one of the prisoner but also his wonderful spirit. Asha Bandele noticed that he wanted to “ recover” and she wanted to help him: “We were talking like we wanted to learn something. We were talking like we wanted to heal…It was unifying talk"(Bandele 19). She understood that only love, support and understanding could help this prisoner. Initially she needed him more than he needed her. However, after some time they became real soul mates, real lovers who could not live without each other. They found their happiness in each other. They found their healing in each other. And this love story is an example for all couples who face difficulties and do not know what power real love has. It is a great example for those who think that love does not live in some places and in some hearts of people. Asha Bandele writes about it in such way: “When we began, I was twenty-five, a student and organizer, a wife on the verge of divorce from my first husband, a poet full of secrets and sadness, an emerging woman hampered by insecurities and anger, a human being fighting off loneliness while craving solitude, needing an open love, long honest discussions, a quiet touching at my core. When we began, he was twenty-nine, inmate number 83***** a convicted killer doing twenty years with life on the back, a model prisoner, a program coordinator, the father of a nine-year-old boy he had never been able to raise, a lawyer without a law degree, a devoted Muslim, a man on the verge of divorce from his first wife, a human being fighting off loneliness while craving solitude, needing an open love, long honest discussions, a quiet touching at his core. We were exactly the same and we were completely different. We were never meant to be together. We were always meant to save each other (Bandele 16-17). In my opinion, it is the greatest book about love that teaches all people never give up and believe in the power of love, because it can help to turn over a new leaf and cross all boundaries such as gender, race, religion, and convict status.
Relationships between two lovers are always unique. Every couple has its own story which is full of bright events, moments of physical and spiritual unity and obstacles which lovers meet on the way to complete happiness. Bandele and Rashid are not the exception. In the first part of the book Bandele shows that, in fact, she needs her lover, Rashid more than he needs her and their relationships were based mainly on her enthusiasm. However, Rashid also loved Bandele. Initial ignore was part of his strategy. One day Rashid said Bandele: “Every dude know when you really want to talk to a sister, you don’t step to her directly. You step to her friend, and that’s what I did. I talked to that other sister, the poet who performed before you, because that was I knew I’d get your attention. I mean, what I’d look like trying to talk to you when all of them other dudes were running they game on you?” (Bandele 16) Moreover, Rashid did all his best to make their relationships perfect. Bandele describes it in such way: “He valued my opinions! Can you imagine such a man? He wants to consult with me about everything. Everything! He takes my advice…He respects me enough to argue with me…” (Bandele 20) And all these altogether make their relationships strong and able to overcome all difficulties. Their mutual efforts help them to become “one mind, and one body, one vision and one thought” (Bandele 67). It can be seen considering also the moments of their physical intimacy. Bandele describes it as an identity fusion: “He is in you. He is you. You can call up the sensation, Rashid in you, Rashid as you” (Bandele 148). In my opinion, their relationships are the perfect ones, because they made efforts to make them so. By it they teach other lovers that relationships always need to be worked on. However, their relationships with the society were not so perfect because of the lack of respect and understanding to the love of Black people, especially to the love of prisoner.
The problem of understanding is also one of the major topics discussed in The Prisoner's Wife: A Memoir. Although from the book we can make the conclusion that Bandele and Rashid understand each other well: “You have to understand, Rashid’s letters are like dates. I have to get myself ready. I have to give them their proper space. Before I read his letters, I take a long, mango-scented bath. I burn white candles around the edge of the tub, and sandalwood incense, serenade my own self with Nina Simone songs” (Bandele 32), they suffer from the lack of understanding from others. Firstly, they suffer because of their color of skin: “Everything we commonly hear about romantic partnerships between black men and women is negative. We hear that black men are dogs and black women bitches and ho’s… We hear about the lying and the cheating ant the lowdown violence. We hear about the mistrust and hatred…” (Bandele 115). Secondly, they suffer because of Rashid’s convict status. People could not understand that he wanted to turn over a new leaf and returned to a good way. “I’ve explained to people that I didn’t, despite what it would seem, fall in love with a killer. I fell in love with a man who wanted to become his own more perfect creation, a man committed to the transformation of himself, of the world”. (Bandele 20) However, people in most cases didn’t understand Bandele and met her with questions: How could she do it? As for me, understanding between two lovers is as important as understanding of their relationships by the society. Unfortunately, people could not understand feelings of Bandele and Rashid because of prejudices and arrogant attitude.
Through the entire book, Bandele describes the healing of people with the help of love. The love helps Rashid to start new living without crimes and bad deeds. It helps Bandele to forget childhood fears and become a happy woman. She describes it in such way: “When people have asked me how could I have fallen in love with a man who has convicted of murder, where I begin is as a student who was volunteering time and hoping that my poems and willingness to talk would somehow change someone for the better. Then I tell about the man who would become my husband, how his spirit engaged me, engaged every one of us, and how by the openness of his spirit, it was I who would change” (Bandele 19). To my mind, love is that feeling that helps people to recover, because it gives them a new sense of life.
To sum up, The Prisoner’s Wife is a great love story that teaches readers to appreciate love, build their relationships on mutual respect, support and understanding and believe that with the help of love every person can turn over a new leaf. It is a story for those are facing difficult choices in life and do not know what to do in order to overcome hard burdens of the past.