One of the many dangers of working as a stripper at “The Mars Room” in San Francisco is stalkers. You never know who might find you fascinating, feeding you crisp $20s until suddenly $20s aren’t enough and obsession turns into and watching every moment of life. Riding the bus or getting groceries, the man on the motorcycle is watching.

“The Mars Room” is tale of Romy Hall’s life growing up rough in the Bay Area, working “The Mars Room” and her life in an all-Women’s prison sentenced to life for murder. Tough, mean, sad, touching, and thrilling in turn, the Mars Room lifts you into a seedy world of prison politics. You may feel familiar with the atmosphere if you’ve spent any time watching “Orange is the New Black.” Still, this isn’t a rip-off of the show or book, just a revisiting of familiar subject matter. The characters are vivid, guards horrid, living conditions squalid, and the drive to make sense of existing inside the joint pointed and ever elusive.

Rachel Kushner has written an entertaining and easy to read novel that is free of pretension. While you may feel familiar with the subject matter it is always entertaining and fresh.

*The Mars Room is on the 2019 Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence Longlist

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