A Murder and A Memoir
Publication Date: 5/16/2017
My Rating: 5 Stars ++
30 Best Books of 2017
Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich weaves an emotional, gripping— beautifully and intelligently written debut; a haunting work of art— THE FACT OF A BODY A Murder and a Memoir.
A cross-genre, an extraordinary mix of literary, memoir, true-crime, legal, mystery, suspense, and historical in one powerful story—traveling between a murder case and the author’s own personal childhood tragic abuse. A story that demands to be told.
When the two begin to mesh together the author begins her journey for answers. A tale of two crimes.
In 1992 Louisiana, Rick Langley (26 yrs. old) brutally murdered a (6 yr. old) boy, Jeremy Guillory. This was not the first time his name was in the news. A pedophile, he had served time in Georgia for molesting a girl.
In 2003, Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich (Harvard Law), was working an intern at a law firm. The firm was defending Langley in his death-penalty appeal.
No stranger to the law, both her parents are prominent New Jersey lawyers. For some reason, she feels a strong pull to this case. She becomes obsessed with learning more about this case, yet it seems to bring out strong emotions about her own life.
A shameful secret buried by her family. Her family was opposed to the death penalty, but yet she wants him to die. She must define, and make sense of this strong feeling.
In this harrowing, raw, and emotional journey, the author pieces together the story of murder, and her own personal story. Courageously she steps out of the darkness and silence, with the accounting of her own sexual abuse as a child by her grandfather. The story begins.
A grandfather who made his way up the steps and into their room. The two sisters. She recalls when she told her parents, they did nothing. Love and hurt. How to be safe. Did the grandmother know?
They did not want to embarrass or shame the family, damper careers, or hurt the grandmother. They only attempted to keep the grandfather away and move forward as though nothing happened.
The case triggered deeply buried ugly evil and damaging secrets. The unpleasant truths. At the same time, she begins to dig further into the scars while attempting to understand Langley and her own abuser (her grandfather). What caused them to be monsters? Whom to blame?
A journey of self-discovery for over ten years. Leaving the law behind to begin her intense work. There is a story to be told. To be uncovered. A message.
Heartbreaking, moving, and gripping. The darkness of sexual abuse. The blackness of her own family. In the process, there are even more family secrets which are unraveled.
The astounding and shocking conclusion. Her family buried the abuse. The painful emotional scars turned into depression and eating disorders. Shame. Probing questions. How will the events from the past affect her relationships in the future?
How many times has this occurred in other families? Is it passed down through generations? At what point could have the abuse ceased? When the person reaches out for help. The abuser and the victim. Through generations, what breaks the patterns? By hiding the abuse, what is gained? What is lost? Can mercy be shown? Forgiveness or acceptance?
“Is what happens in a family the problem of the family, or the problem of the one harmed by it”? There is a cost.
Thought-provoking, the author’s writing is spellbinding. A highly-skilled writer, meticulously researched; hard to believe this is a debut. A cautionary tale. Guard your children.
Marzano-Lesnevich became a lawyer because she believed that the law simplified and made sense of stories; however, are they too complicated to be contained? Can the abuser be a victim as well?
I purchased the audiobook for my personal collection, narrated by the author. Her performance was outstanding. Raw and emotional. Exposed. The author having to relive five years of pain. How do you get past the hate?
Even though I had read the book back in May when it came out and rated it 5 stars, I was sidetracked with my dad’s illness in NC, as his POA; hiring in-home health care nurses, later Hospice, a car accident, his death, funeral, remaining out of town for a few months; preparing his house to sell, being the executor of his estate, probate, and closing. Later, back home in South Florida, dealing with Hurricane Irma, damages, power outages, and loss of internet. Therefore, book reviews during May-Sept did not get written or posted.
When choosing my Best 30 Books of 2017, (which is a difficult task), realized I had not written my review when linking the book. Immediately this week, have gone back to the audiobook and listened once again to THE FACT OF A BODY. I highly recommend the audiobook and the second time around experience, was even more powerful than the first.
The emotions are real. A desperate need to understand. Did her parent’s sacrifice their daughter’s welfare for the sake of family stability? Unspeakable crimes. What about Langley? Can the past be left behind? Do we protect the abuser or the victim? A cry for help goes unnoticed.
In Ricky, the author writes her own story. What about Lorelei, Jeremy’s mother? The man who murdered her son? Should he be put to death or spared? The questions and what ifs? Where does the sickness begin?
For me, the author’s personal tragic story is more moving, intimate, and personal than Langleys. Her bravery is commendable and admirable with the difficult subject matter. Vivid descriptions which will remain with you after the book ends. Cannot even imagine having to be around a grandfather which remains in your life, after the unspeakable acts.
Mercy. Forgiveness. Is this humanly possible? An encouragement for others to come forward, which is a timely subject in our cruel world today. An example how we carry our life experiences with us. They influence our opinions and feelings while shaping both our present and future.
Award-winning writing and gracefully rendered. Told with sensitivity and compassion, THE FACT OF A BODY will leave a lasting impression. Each reader will be left with their own individual thoughts of victim and abuser— where the lines are often blurred.
Book didn't appear on my radar until I spotted Ron Charles' review and was intrigued by the premise. You may recall the saga of Rachel Dolezal and about how she self-identified plus others who have claimed they "feel" they identify with or belong to another group. In Dolezal's case she specifically identified as black but this essay collection isn't just limited to race.
We begin with Brando Skyhorse, who grew up believing he was Native American, had met his "father", etc. It turns out this was an entire fiction created by his mother and he discusses how that affected him as a child, as an adult, in professional and personal settings, etc. He has written a memoir about it but I have not read it so I could not say if here's any repeated material. The essay, though, was the best. It was sometimes very compelling and fascinating but it also felt a little too long.
Which is what the book felt like too. I read the next few and then skimmed over the rest. I hate essay collections and that's no different here. This definitely gave me food for thought and it was an interesting collection topic-wise. But ultimately I prefer long form journalism or memoirs vs. essay collections.
I wanted to like it more but it's too uneven. This could very well be a case of a book format that is just not for me. It's available now so check it out at the library or bookstore.
She is really inspiring. Something major happened to her, but she got back up and continued to do what she loved.
I enjoyed the book, but not the writing style as much. I've seen people complain that she did not talk more about the shark and how things were different after, with having one arm, and how she adapted to doing things differently, or how she talked about the making of her movie. But this book isn't meant to dwell just the attack; it's meant to be about her life, and that would include her faith and the movie.
I also want to add, I love sharks. They get a bad rep for this sort of thing. They don't see humans as food, and usually leave after having a nibble (they mistake you as their food.) But that nibble is usually enough to kill or seriously maim someone. They are not evil killing machines or an useless animal as I've seen a lot of people say. It is their world people "invade" for a lack of a better word and they might be curious about you if you are flailing around and seem like a seal in distress.
I can't speak for her personally, but I do feel like she is the type of person who would not blame the shark, and would know it wasn't the sharks fault. I can't remember what she said exactly in the book about this, but I remember in the movie, she was upset when people went after sharks, hunting and killing a bunch. I mean she is a firm believer in God, and sharks are one of his creatures, right?
This is a true story, written by someone who is not a professional writer, so I did find some of it choppy and odd. She is amazing and I wish her well. I hope she continues to inspire people.