Publisher: Flatiron Books
Genre: True Crime/Memoir
Before Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich begins a summer job at a law firm in Louisiana, working to help defend men accused of murder, she thinks her position is clear. The child of two lawyers, she is staunchly anti-death penalty. But the moment convicted murderer Ricky Langley’s face flashes on the screen as she reviews old tapes―the moment she hears him speak of his crimes―she is overcome with the feeling of wanting him to die. Shocked by her reaction, she digs deeper and deeper into the case. Despite their vastly different circumstances, something in his story is unsettlingly, uncannily familiar.
Crime, even the darkest and most unsayable acts, can happen to any one of us. As Alexandria pores over the facts of the murder, she finds herself thrust into the complicated narrative of Ricky’s childhood. And by examining the details of Ricky’s case, she is forced to face her own story, to unearth long-buried family secrets, and reckon with a past that colors her view of Ricky’s crime.
But another surprise awaits: She wasn’t the only one who saw her life in Ricky’s.
An intellectual and emotional thriller that is also a different kind of murder mystery, The Fact Of a Body is a book not only about how the story of one crime was constructed―but about how we grapple with our own personal histories. Along the way it tackles questions about the nature of forgiveness, and if a single narrative can ever really contain something as definitive as the truth. This groundbreaking, heart-stopping work, ten years in the making, shows how the law is more personal than we would like to believe―and the truth more complicated, and powerful, than we could ever imagine.
Though I read a ton of mystery/thrillers it’s been quite awhile since I’ve picked up a true crime book. I went through a phase in high school where I read many of them, but oftentimes I felt like they were dry and a little boring. But when I first read the blurb for The Fact of a Body I was immediately intrigued. How could a true crime book merge with a memoir when the author wasn’t directly involved in the case?! After reading this amazing book I can say that she manages to weave the two seemingly unrelated tales beautifully and seamlessly.
The book alternates between various timeframes both from Ricky’s past and also the authors. At times it read like a legal thriller, at others it was like getting a harrowing look at the lives of both. Ricky did not have an easy upbringing and though the crimes he committed make me sick to my stomach, ML does a fantastic job of examining what shaped him. She describes her journey of self discovery as she revisits her own extremely painful past and explains why she was so drawn to and so connected to the case.
Her writing style was outstanding, she’s truly gifted and had me simultaneously captivated and haunted by what she was saying. The truth is dissected and reexamined revealing that nothing about this story can be defined in black and white terms but that the truth lies somewhere in shades of gray. Knowing that this was based on true events made it all the more chilling and when I finished I went straight to Google. I read several news articles about the various trials and I watched videos, but not many as watching Ricky’s confession was about all I could handle.
As much as I was impressed by this book I do want to warn people that there are many instances where abuse against children is discussed and though ML doesn’t sensationalize it at all, it’s still disturbing to read. If you can handle that, this is such a phenomenal read, very intelligent and written so sensitively.
Overall rating: 5/5
Thanks to Flatiron Books for my review copy.