When Piper Kerman is twenty-four (in 1993) she hooks up with a chic lesbian drug dealer named Nora Jansen and helps her smuggle money across borders in Europe. (If she tried that today, she'd have to pay almost as much in checked-bag fees as the amount she was smuggling.)
Piper leaves this life behind and eventually meets a man named Larry, whom she moves to New York with. But her money-laundering past catches up with her, and she's indicted on drug charges, pleads guilty to avoid a maximum sentence, and is sentenced to eighteen months in Danbury Federal Prison. She's worried, but glad that she's blond and wonderful and surrounded by hundreds of family members and friends offering her unconditional love and support.
On February 4, 2004, Piper goes to jail. She has to go through a strip search, put on an unflattering khaki jumpsuit, and only has trashy romance novels to read. Can it get any worse? Over the next few months, Piper goes through prison orientation, makes some friends, and gets tons of mail and visitors. If there were a prison popularity contest, Piper would win.
Nothing bad really happens to her.
Once, she gets into an argument with a woman about iceberg lettuce (we wouldn't want to eat it, either), and another time she accidentally takes a screwdriver from a worksite, so she throws it in the dumpster so she won't get caught in possession of a deadly weapon. But that's about it.
She also makes friends, like Little Janet; Pop, the prison cook; and Vanessa, a transgender woman. Piper celebrates her birthday in prison, and she's showered with cards, letters, and chocolate. Unfortunately, Piper's grandmother dies, and she can't get furlough to see her before she passes.
As Piper's release date approaches, her friends start to go home. Both Little Janet and Pop prepare to leave, but Piper is called as a witness in Chicago. She has to fly Con-Air (which is still an upgrade from Spirit airlines) to testify against Jonathan Bibby, one of Nora's drug rivals.
In one of those stranger-than-fiction moments, Piper finds herself in the very same cell as Nora Jansen and her sister. They manage to form a temporary truce, at least until the trial. Then, after Piper testifies, she's released… from Chicago, which is hundreds of miles away from Danbury. But Larry is there waiting for her, and she runs toward him, happy to be free.
Vom...uh, we mean...awww.