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Thursday, May 18, 2017

#CJSReads REVIEW: The Fact of a Body by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich

The Fact of a Body by Alexandria Marzano
Flatiron Books

A unique blend of True Crime and Memoir - this is a book that will stay with you long after you have turned the last page.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

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.

My Review:

5 beautiful, shiny stars.

Do you ever just turn the last page of a book, sit back, and go WOW? That's exactly what happened for me with this piece of art. This book tells two different stories - a tale of convicted murderer and pedophile, Ricky Langley, and the author's own story; how through her research into Ricky, faces her own past - changing her initial view into his case.

I have never read a book like this one. Bouncing back and forth between the tales, the author's research and clear ability to weave a story seeps through the pages and into ever fiber of your being. You can see her bare her own soul unabashedly while somehow making you empathize for Ricky. She also has the ability in her reconstruction to show how everyone else affected by this case uses their own experiences to try and understand. Personal experiences give people reason to find compassion in some cases. She truly shows the complexities of holding on to secrets, raw emotion, and the scars that become part of human growth, both physically and mentally. Her blending of her own memoir with this true crime story is unprecedented and something that will be with me for a long time coming.

Fans of Serial and Making a Murderer will be fascinated by this novel. If you pick up this book, and you should, take the time to read the foreword, the Sources Consulted section and the Author's acknowledgment.

Jessica's Thoughts:
The Fact of a Body by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich is unlike any other book that I've read. It's a combination of a memoir and a murder case. It was very intriguing reading through the author's background and what led her to the Ricky Langley case. When I saw that this was part memoir, I was a little curious as to how this would all play out. The legal disclaimer at the beginning of the book is very helpful and informative (how all the information given about Langley is something that is publicly available, from trial, etc). 

We follow two stories. The story of Ricky Langley and the murder he committed - which then leads to the trial where he eventually crosses paths with the author. The other story, is the author's upbringing. She grew up with two lawyers as parents. These two storylines are very important. We get to see Alexandria's character take shape, as well as her beliefs before entering into the law firm in Louisiana (completely anti-death penalty). All of that changes the second she sees and hears Langley on tape talking about his crimes. Langley is facing the death penalty for murdering 6 year old Jeremy Guillory.

We dive deep into Ricky's background with the author. She puts all of her energy into the details of the murder and soon finds herself digging into his complicated childhood. There's something unsettling and uncanny about his story - Alexandria is forced to face her own childhood and unearthing deep buried secrets and a past that could be affecting her views of Langley's crime. 

This is an emotional and intellectual thriller that definitely does not read like a memoir/nonfiction. It's interesting diving into the mind of a lawyer who is having an internal battle with herself over this case and what it means for her beliefs. I would highly recommend this to someone that wants a thriller or mystery that has a unique twist to it. Having this be a true story made it even more chilling to read - Ricky Langley isn't a made up character and what he did is real and cannot be undone. 

This was a page turner for me and I loved it!

5/5 stars!

Sam's Thoughts:

The Fact of A Body, a non-fiction novel by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich, was one that I was very intrigued by.  Following an anti-death penalty lawyer in the deep South, her perception is changed when her firm begins working on a case with convicted murderer and child molester, Ricky Langley.   Part true-crime, part memoir, Marzano-Lesnevich, recalls her time watching the confession tapes and going through the crimes, but also how it connects to her own personal history.

The book opens with Marzano-Lesnevich arriving at her new law firm for her summer internship in Louisiana.  As she begins watching the first tapes of Ricky Langley, something inside her stirs and she cannot ignore her unsettling feeling.  Narrated through alternate time periods, the memoir jumps around and then blends together in its finale.  Chapters uncover not only Rickey’s life and his crimes, but also his past and his family history.  Marzano-Lesnevich explores her own past and childhood.  

This work was really different.    At times, I felt as if it was a little jumpy, but the author does make sure to label each chapter with their time period so it can be followed.   I was incredibly interested in the chapters surrounding the psychology of Langley; the author does a phenomenal job at presenting the facts of his case and trial.

However, my favourite part of the novel was the author’s ability to recognize how personal histories can affect a perception.

I applaud the author’s courage to be able to share her own tale and publish this body of work.   I feel like all true crime fans will be interested in this one! 

View all my reviews

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