#BookReview – THE FACT OF A BODY: A Murder and a Memoir by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich

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.

Release Date: May 16, 2017

Amazon / Amazon UK / Amazon CA


My Review

I want to tell you that this book is compelling, well written, powerful, and thought-provoking, which it is, but it is also so much more, and I find myself grappling for the right words.

The true crime aspect of this book is written like the best suspense novel, with the kind of depth and feeling you don’t often find in this genre. The author handles the subject and all the people involved with unexpected tenderness, turning them over and examining them with compassion and an honest need to understand. She never exploits the victim or demonizes the killer. She doesn’t look for excuses, only reasons.

In that moment, his life had spun off the rails of what he imagined for himself. He was trying to find something to save him, to make him normal. I understand his wish.

Interspersed throughout, the author tells her own story. We go with her, deep into this dysfunctional family that works so hard at appearances. We feel her confusion, fear, and disconnect. We learn why Ricky Langley’s case gets under her skin and festers, and how chasing his story brings closure for her own past.

Who knows why the past comes through in the moments it does; who knows why a secret suddenly becomes too much to keep?

Within these pages, the author shows us the truth of a world clouded with shades of gray. Our legal system in particular likes to frame issues with a clear good guy and bad guy, but rarely is anything so simple. And sometimes we find forgiveness in the most unexpected places.

*I was provided with an advance ebook copy from the publisher, via NetGalley, in exchange for my honest review.*


Thanks for reading. 🙂