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.
I’m pretty excited to write this review because, as of today, The Fact of A Body is the only true crime book that I’ve ever enjoyed. I haven’t read many, but those I tried I didn’t really like. However, thanks to Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich, I’m willing to try the genre again!
The Fact of A Body was a truly unique book and even though I wasn’t sure at first, the experience wasn’t what I expected at all. This book was way more psychological than I anticipated and it addressed certain topics, like abuse, that made it a difficult (yet compelling) read for me.
And why did I feel like that? When Alexandria decided to write this book, she made the decision to be completely honest and share her personal experience with us. So this time, I wasn’t reading a made-up tale about fictional characters; someone had actually suffered this and was willing to sacrifice their privacy in order to tell us a (real) story.
If you’ve read the synopsis, you already know this is the story of a law student whose beliefs are put into question when she watches a tape featuring a convicted killer, Ricky Langley. When Alexandria looks at Langley’s eyes, she sees something she recognizes. And so she begins to investigate Rick’s childhood while trying to understand what happened to her all those years ago.
The writing was excellent, probably one of the best-written books I’ve come across lately. I particularly enjoyed the little flash-forwards and the way the author described her childhood and the relationship with her family. It kept me glued to the pages and I couldn’t help but feel sorry for Alexandria and her sister while admiring them at the same time. And what if…? But what if…? I guess we’ll never know.
I must say that I still prefer reading fiction and will always do. I remember their endings and think about the characters even after months have gone by. Nevertheless, I really hope that the next time I dive into a non-fiction book, I choose one that it’s as good as The Fact of A Body.
ARC, Macmillan, 2017