... a haunting and harrowing indictment of the deep psychological damage inflicted by the nation’s punitive structures ... Montross is a gifted, often compelling storyteller ... Montross traveled extensively across this country, bearing witness to how jails and prisons both initiate and intensify mental illness. The strongest portions of her searing book appear in its parade of alarming vignettes. I will not soon forget some of her grotesque images ... Montross’s typically formidable narrative skills sometimes go awry, most notably when she shoehorns herself and her family into the story...Such passages needlessly distract from the gravity of her subject ... This tendency reaches its nadir in the book’s conclusion, where Montross recollects writing at a lake cottage during winter and wrestling with how to handle a coyote outside her window that is behaving strangely. The episode stretches over five pages and produces at best a modest payoff: a belabored analogy for society’s response to the spectacle of mental illness, the way we allow fear and a desire for control to overcome more humane impulses. Waiting for an Echo would have been improved had these discursions been excised ... Montross’s travelogue-based approach may also leave some readers pining for a comprehensive treatment of this issue, one more attentive to scholarly debate ... Yet Montross’s stumbles should not overshadow her significant achievement. I hope that she successfully pricks the nation’s conscience about our shameful punishment of mental illness. It is impossible to read her captivating account without concluding that our various departments of corrections are themselves in intense need of correcting.
Psychiatrist Montross’ exploration of mental illness and its treatment with incarceration challenges assumptions about rehabilitation, especially in light of the use of mechanisms of revenge and punishment, such as isolation and deprivation ... Comparing the therapeutic environment of the hospital where she treats patients to the methods of control in prisons highlights how prisons are not merely neglecting prisoners’ mental-health needs, but exacerbating and sometimes creating mental illness ... Montross’ expertise is complemented by extensive research, including her many visits to facilities. The result is a thoughtful, relatable work that humanizes those who are incarcerated and raises crucial questions.