I’m absolutely delighted to be taking part in my first non-fiction blog tour; I’m sure you’ve seen the buzz surrounding this memoir, The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich, if not, don’t worry I’ve got a jam packed blog tour stop with all the need to know information. Not only am I sharing my review with you all today, I’ve got links to the evidence pack which contains disturbing video footage, pictures from the author’s archives [when researching the book], a link to the prologue and Pan Macmillan kindly sent me two copies of this book, one for me and one to giveaway!
In 2003, while studying at Harvard Law School, Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich takes a summer job at a law firm in Louisiana working on the retrial of Ricky Langley – a death-row convicted murderer and child molester. The daughter of two lawyers, Alexandria is staunchly anti-death penalty. But the moment Ricky’s face flashes on the screen as she reviews old interviews 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, realizing that despite their vastly different circumstances something in his story is unsettlingly. Uncannily familiar.
Crime – even the darkest and most unspeakable acts – can happen to any one of us and as Alexandria pores over the facts of the murder she uncovers the complicated narrative of Ricky’s childhood. By examining minute details of the case she is forced to face her own story of long-buried family secrets, to reconcile how her own past colours her view of this crime.
Comparisons to true crime classics such as In Cold Blood and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil are absolutely justified by the quality of writing and Alexandria’s skill in weaving the facts of the case with the human stories at its centre. Fans of broadcast phenomena Serial, S. Town and Making a Murderer will be enthralled. The Fact of a Body is a heart-stopping investigation that lays bare how the law is personal and that arriving at the truth is more complicated, and powerful, than we could ever imagine.
Let’s start at the beginning – the prologue – I could read a book on this information alone, legal proceedings have always been of great interest to me and Marzano-Lesnevich begins by introducing the concept of cause in fact; in the chain of events that caused an outcome, which event is responsible for that outcome and how do you determine it? As you go on to read her true account, you will often refer back to this notion – cause in fact – and try to determine at which point an intervention could have changed the fate of the murdered child, six-year-old, Jeremy Guillory.
Marzano-Lesnevich has chosen a clever structure in this memoir, she often tells you a piece of information before stating something along the lines of ‘we’re not there yet, first we must address….’, this immediately makes you want to read on. Telling you what’s to come and then immediately detailing the events that came before is a clever device because if you think ‘oh, I’ll read a bit more then stop’ you can’t because she has let slip a piece of information that may change how you feel about what has happened and so you need to continue reading to find out.
You can look at this book from two angles, firstly, that of the case itself, details of the trial along with Ricky’s childhood. Marzano-Lesnevich looks in detail at the proceedings and to a certain extent allows us to feel empathy for those involved. You will wonder if Ricky ‘fell through the net’, was this a man desperately searching for help – will you allow yourself to feel empathy towards him? At the same time, your heart will break for Jeremy’s mother for the loss of her child. And while you may not understand it, you will see his mother stand up and speak out to keep Ricky from death row.
The second angle is Marzano-Lesnevich’s upbringing, this is told in a beautiful parallel to the upbringing of Ricky and when these two angles are weaved together throughout the book you get a powerful, personal and thought provoking account. A powerful look at the nature of humans; being so against the death penalty and then seeing the face of a man found guilty of murder and wanting him to die, Marzano-Lesnevich examines this case in the hope of finding some understanding of what occurred in her own life.
Without a doubt this memoir will stay with you. Marzano-Lesnevich also lists the sources she used to fill in the gaps in her account, while these sources allowed her to write an unbroken account, I appreciate that she shared with us these sources so if you wish to, you can look further into the case.
I highly recommend this book to fans of True Crime and those that like to read memoirs; in these kinds of books, not only do I believe you learn about the people involved but I also believe you learn a lot about yourself:
“What you see in Ricky may depend more on who you are than who he is.”
About the Author:
Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich is a graduate from Harvard Law School, holds an MFA from Emerson and a BA from Columbia University. For The Fact of a Body, her first book, Alexandria was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Fellow in creative writing, a Rona Jaffe Award, a scholarship to the Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference as well as several writing fellowships. Her essays and short fiction have appeared in the New York Times, Oxford American and True Crime. Alexandria lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she teaches at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and memoir writing at Grub Street.
The Evidence Pack:
The above three images are taken from American Press newspaper. The first is Ricky Langley arrested, the second is searching the woods and the last, a picture of the suspects home. For more pictures and details on the research process, click the below link to the evidence pack, you’ll also find some videos about the case, including disturbing video footage of Ricky Langley describing the murder of Jeremy Guillory.
If all of the above has caught your attention, why not head over to the publisher’s website and read the prologue now! I want to start reading now…
Due to shipping costs, this giveaway is for UK residents only. Giveaway closes on 25/05/17 and the winner will be contacted shortly after. Click the link below to enter.
This giveaway is no closed! Winner: Mary Picken @ Live and Deadly
Thank you for joining me on my blog tour stop for The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir.