The Second Life of Mirielle West – Amanda Skenandore

The Second Life of Mirielle West has been my first experiment with an audiobook. How did it go? Well, slower than expected for sure – a miscalculation from my side, as I only listen to books when I’m driving and I didn’t have many chances to burn rubber back in July/August. 

Still, you should know by now that slowness often means that I enjoyed something a whole lot. It’s quickness that should worry authors 😛


Based on the true story of America’s only leper colony, The Second Life of Mirielle West brings vividly to life the Louisiana institution known as Carville, where thousands of people were stripped of their civil rights, branded as lepers, and forcibly quarantined throughout the entire 20th century.

For Mirielle West, a 1920’s socialite married to a silent film star, the isolation and powerlessness of the Louisiana Leper Home is an unimaginable fall from her intoxicatingly chic life of bootlegged champagne and the star-studded parties of Hollywood’s Golden Age. When a doctor notices a pale patch of skin on her hand, she’s immediately branded a leper and carted hundreds of miles from home to Carville, taking a new name to spare her family and famous husband the shame that accompanies the disease.

At first she hopes her exile will be brief, but those sent to Carville are more prisoners than patients and their disease has no cure. Instead she must find community and purpose within its walls, struggling to redefine her self-worth while fighting an unchosen fate.

384 pages – 12h 37minutes
HighBridge Audio, Kensington


Cover: I love it. Simple and elegant.

Narrator: Nicole Poole did an outstanding job. Her voice is pleasing to listen to, her style is clear. Lovely accent too.


  • The Second Life of Mirielle West is the story of a ‘20 socialite, Mirielle, who gets diagnosed with leprosy. Nowadays, this disease is treatable with antibiotics; back then, it still carried a huge social stigma, meaning that patients were just carted off to special hospitals. Mirielle ends up in one of them, a Louisiana military facility named Carville, away from her husband and her daughters. From then on, her life will never be the same.
  • I rooted for every character while I was listening, and I mean it in a literal way. Even the most unsympathetic ones have a redeeming trait – and this, this is how you convey realism. Case in point, Sister Verena. Or Charlie. Wow. I mean, Skenandore’s skills in handling her characters blows me away. I also like the dynamics between them, forever changing and developing.
  • What a wonderful writing style. Skenandore drops clues here and there, avoiding infodumps—thank you—and the abuse of descriptions. Everything is functional to the plot, without unnecessary details or digressions.
  • Mirielle’s growth is a thing of beauty. When the story begins, she’s no stranger to pain; her diagnosis is yet another blow dealt to her core, something that could have destroyed her spirit. Little by little, she finds a new purpose, befriending and helping the other patients.
  • The historical accuracy is spot on. I researched a few details myself, just to make sure, and they all checked out.


  • No flaws. This is a perfect book.


5 stars on GR, and I wish I could give it a couple more. Well done.

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