Publisher’s Weekly, April 27, 2009

Following conviction for bank fraud, White spent a year in a minimum-security prison in Carville, La., housed in the last leper colony in mainland America. His fascinating memoir reflects on the sizable group of lepers living alongside the prisoners, social outcasts among the motley inmate crew of drug dealers, mob types and killers. Narrating in colorful, entertaining snapshots, White introduces the reader to an excellent supporting cast in his imprisonment: Father Reynolds, the peerless monk; Mr. Flowers, the no-nonsense case manager; Anne, the sorrowful mother with leprosy whose baby was taken from her arms; and Ella, the Earth Mother, with wisdom to spare. Brisk, ironic and perceptive, White’s introspective memoir puts a magnifying glass to a flawed life, revealing that all of life is to be savored and respected.

Booklist Starred Review, May 1, 2009

In the Sanctuary of Outcasts. White, Neil (Author) Jun 2009. 304 p. Morrow, hardcover, $25.99. (9780061351600). 365. White was a successful magazine publisher in 1993 when he was convicted of fraud and check kiting and sentenced to prison in Carville, Louisiana. He knew he was facing 18 months without his wife and two young children; he knew his enormous ego and ambition had landed him in prison; he knew he had to figure out a way to save his marriage and somehow rebound financially. What he didn’t know was that the isolated 100-year-old facility at Carville was home to a leper colony of 130 patients. He learned that the patients (some severely disfigured and disabled) and the 250 inmates eyed each other suspiciously across the corridors and breezeway, each thinking the other was the scourge of the earth. Because his work detail brought him into frequent contact with the patients, White developed strong relationships with them. His favorite was Ella, a dignified and beatific elderly black woman, who had lived at Carville for more than 50 years. Among the inmates, White encountered counterfeiters and tax evaders along with drug traffickers and carjackers. When the Bureau of Prisons decided to evict the leprosy patients, tensions built on both sides. White, near the end of his sentence and struggling to come to grips with the consequences of his crime, is caught in the middle. He offers a memoir of personal transformation and a thoroughly engaging look at the social, economic, racial, and other barriers that separate individuals that harden, dissolve, and reconfigure themselves when people are involuntarily thrust together over long periods.
— Vanessa Bush

Kirkus Review, May 4, 2009

An ex-con gains wisdom after doing time at a prison doubling as the last leper colony in America. White’s trouble began when he started kiting checks for his newspaper business, the Oxford Times. Investor confidence misled him into proliferating more illicit activities. After surviving a bankruptcy, he began to assemble a “media dynasty” when an audit by the FDIC resulted in a conviction of bank fraud in 1992. Sentenced to Louisiana ’s Carville minimum-security prison, he left behind wife Linda and two young children in Mississippi . While at Carville, White became educated on the damaging stigma of leprosy—now more commonly referred to as Hansen’s disease—since the prison also houses a leper colony. With felons integrated alongside the sick, the author admits to being initially repulsed (“I didn’t want to breathe the air”) but soon discovered how the afflicted live out their lives not only with misshapen or missing limbs that seemingly “disappear” from their bodies, but “plagued by lore, innuendo, and rumor” by the outside world. Dismissing rules against fraternization, White befriended Ella, a spunky African-American woman, wheelchair-bound with nearly 70 years spent at Carville. Initial visits from his wife and children proved strained, confusing and painful; as the months progressed, the family’s financial situation became dire as well. White recounts his courtship of Linda (“just about perfect”), their marriage and the lies and deception that destroyed their family. After much speculation about whether his marriage would survive the prison term—it didn’t—White realized that as a Carville inmate, he’d become just as much of an outcast as the leprosy patients. Those harsh realities are leavened with tender, humorous asides derived from the many dynamic Carville residents he encountered before his surprising release one year later. An earnest chronicle written with equal parts enlightenment and atonement.

Library Journal, May 1, 2009

Convicted of fraud and serving a prison sentence in a leper colony? What kind of crazy fiction is that? Turns out it’s not fiction at all but what literally happened to journalist and editor White, who was sentenced to prison at Carville, the only leper colony remaining in the United States, for committing a relatively innocuous financial crime. White’s memoir continues to surprise as it presents a witty, well-rendered narrative of redemption and enlightenment. Readers who enjoy clever, off-beat memoirs will devour this in one sitting.—Lynn Maxwell

Author Blurbs

“Neil White’s memoir, In the Sanctuary of Outcasts, is a remarkable story of a young man’s loss of everything he deemed important, his imprisonment in a place that would terrify anyone, and his ultimate discovery that redemption can be taught by society’s most dreaded outcasts.”
John Grisham

“Neil White’s memoir, In the Sanctuary of Outcasts, is a wonderfully bizarre and entertaining memoir of jailhouse redemption–by turns hilarious, astonishing and, when all is said and done, deeply moving.”
John Berendt, author of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

“Sent to prison for white-collar crime, only to find he was to serve out his time at Carville, the last leper colony in mainland America, Neil White has crafted an important memoir of his personal transformation from superficiality and fear to meaning and hope by ‘the least of these’ — men and women suffering from Hansen’s Disease — leprosy of old. In the Sanctuary of Outcasts was a rare treat for me as I not only learned about this extraordinary place, only whispered about when I was a child, but, even better, was reminded again of what really matters in this life.”
Robert Hicks, author of The Widow of the South

“If Federico Fellini had been a film director of the American South, he would have leapt at the chance to make a major movie of Neil White’s memoir, In the Sanctuary of Outcasts. At once surreal and grittily naturalistic, funny and poignant, White’s tale is fascinating and full of universal resonance. And, not incidentally, White is a splendid writer, adept at both creating a scene and illuminating the human heart. This is a book that will endure.”
Pulitzer Prize winner, Robert Olen Butler

“In the Sanctuary of Outcasts tells the fascinating story of Neil White’s years of high living and bank fraud that landed him in prison — but not an ordinary prison — one that doubled as the last leper colony in America. White enters his incarceration determined to keep away from the “lepers” and nourish his own skills to emerge a stronger businessman, but soon he is drawn into their world. The friends he makes and experiences he has help him emerge stronger, not as a better businessman but a better man. Narrated in an engaging, affable voice with self-deprecating humor, In the Sanctuary of Outcasts is a great American story of personal transformation that leaves White — and ourselves — forever changed.”
Tom Franklin, author of Smonk

“Neil White in his luminous memoir In the Sanctuary of Outcasts explicates his own path to redemption. White brings to life a wacky bunch of characters who help him remember what is best about himself. His story is unique and deeply felt: I enjoyed this book immensely!”
Darcey Steinke author of Easter Everywhere and Milk

“White wastes no time getting to the hurt, and once he takes you there, you’ll be riveted. This is a searing tale of trouble, but it’s more than that; it’s also about finding a time and a place in which to lay the groundwork for a new life. A fine memoir and one I highly recommend.”
Steve Yarbrough, James and Coke Hallowell Professor of Creative Writing Coordinator of the MFA Program English Department California State University

“Leprosy and white collar crime in one dynamic book? Neil White, a writer with a multiple mission, knits two fascinating and unfortunate stories into one powerful narrative that is informative, heart-breaking and highly compelling. White writes with clarity, sensitivity and unforgettable passion.”
Lee Gutkind, Editor, Creative Nonfiction magazine and author of Almost Human: Making Robots Think

“Neil White’s In the Sanctuary of Outcasts is a spellbinding tale of ambition, deception, and unforeseen grace found in unexpected places. It is said that truth is stranger than fiction, and this book once more proves the point. White is a gifted writer, and this is a magnificent story – honest and wise, startling and revelatory.”
Dinty W. Moore, author of The Accidental Buddhist

Neil White’s story is rare and unusual, made all the better by his deft telling of absolving in the most unlikeliest of places the pains of loss, human frailty and shattered dreams. But in the end, dreams do come true and White’s pain and laughter becomes moving inspiration. This book belongs in the hands of all readers seeking to find how all locked doors can be opened.
David Magee, The Education of Mr. Mayfield

Bookseller Support for In the Sanctuary of Outcasts

“A fascinating look at a place a few people knew existed. How often can you be engrossed in a story with carjackers, mob lawyers, drug dealers and leprosy patients? At times heartbreaking, sometimes funny, and always interesting, this book had me talking to everyone about America’s last “leper colony.”
—Erin Bruce, Barnes & Noble, Salisbury, MD

“What a wonderful book! It really moves and that’s no small trick by itself. And not only is it a great story but it’s told with honesty and self-knowledge and wit. Neil White is brave to stand this naked and I salute him for it. White has a great ear for dialogue—for instance, the way Link is defined by his speech is especially admirable. You can hear him and not just him but the entire motley cast. Also, the way White employs a cross-section of people to represent the whole prison population is well-done. In the Sanctuary of Outcasts is just plain enjoyable. Interesting, engrossing and rich in insight. I am very impressed. I think this will garner much attention and I smell a movie sale.”
–Corey Mesler, Burke’s Books, Memphis, TN

“In the Sanctuary of Outcasts is remarkable. Thank you Mr.White, for giving a voice to those suffering from Hansen’s disease (leprosy). His memoir is though-provoking, funny, and heartwarming from beginning to end.”
—Stacie Dowdy, Barnes & Noble, Harrisonburg, VA

“Neil White’s own story of his crimes, struggles and self-discovery told while he learns the ropes of prison and the stories of his fellow inmates and the leper residents was moving, funny and incredibly compelling. I hesitate to compare it to A MILLION LITTLE PIECES, which I read very early on and really loved, only because of its notoriety. Neil White’s gift of storytelling and ability to bring out the humanity and idiosyncrasies of people while giving the reader a view of a difficult and dangerous world is in turn a great gift to the reader.”
–Cathy Langer, Tattered Cover, Denver, CO

“Weeks after reading Outcasts, I’m still telling people about White’s story. Who knew that convicted felons and folks with leprosy were housed together? Leper-con! A remarkable story of a fallen man’s search for meaning amid a group of really, really interesting folks.”
—Jami Davis, Barnes & Noble, Florence, KY

“Neil White’s story is rare and unusual, made all the better by his deft telling of absolving (in the most unlikeliest of places) the pains of loss, human frailty and shattered dreams. But in the end, dreams do come true and White’s pain and laughter becomes moving inspiration. This book belongs in the hands of all readers seeking to find how all locked doors can be opened.”
–David Magee, Rock Point Books, Chattanooga, TN

“This book has it all: hope, humor, hardship, and honesty. A wonderful and personal account of prison life in a leper colony, and the extraordinary people living there with Hansen’s disease. Well done!”
—Margie Turkett, Barnes & Noble, Annapolis, MD

“I never would have expected to be equally likely to laugh and cry over a book about lepers. Truth be told, I didn’t even know that leprosy still existed. This book not only educated me, but genuinely motivated me to take a step back and look at what I was doing to help those less fortunate.”
—Melissa Floyd, Barnes & Noble, Bensalem, PA

“Every bit as compelling as a novel. Part memoir, part history book, and entirely fascinating.”
—Julia Lewey, Barnes & Noble, Huntington Beach, CA