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The fact of a body : a murder and a memoir / Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich.

By: Marzano-Lesnevich, Alexandria.
Material type: materialTypeLabelBookPublisher: New York, New York : Flatiron Books, 2018Copyright date: ©2017Edition: First edition.Description: viii, 326 pages ; 21 cm.Content type: text Media type: unmediated Carrier type: volumeISBN: 9781250080554 (paperback).Subject(s): Langley, Ricky Joseph | Langley, Ricky Joseph. -- Trials, litigation, etc | Marzano-Lesnevich, Alexandria -- Family | Marzano-Lesnevich, Alexandria | Murder -- Law and legislation -- Louisiana | Murder -- Moral and ethical aspects -- Louisiana | Murderers -- Louisiana | Child molesters -- Louisiana | Women lawyers -- United States -- Biography | Family secrets | Child abuseGenre/Form: True crime stories.DDC classification: 364.152/3092 Summary: "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 his case, is forced to face her own story, unearth long-buried family secrets, and reckon with a past that colors her view of Ricky's crime."-- Provided by publisher.
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Enhanced descriptions from Syndetics:

"Complex and challenging... push[es] the boundaries of writing about trauma." -- The New York Times
"A True Crime Masterpiece" - Vogue
Entertainment Weekly "Must" List and Best Books of the Year So Far
Real Simple's Best New Books
Guardian Best Book of the Year
Lambda Literary Award Winner
Chautauqua Prize Winner

" The Fact of a Body is one of the best books I've read this year. It's just astounding."
-- Paula Hawkins, author of Into the Water and The Girl on the Train

"This book is a marvel. The Fact of a Body is equal parts gripping and haunting and will leave you questioning whether any one story can hold the full truth." -- Celeste Ng, author of the New York Times bestselling Everything I Never Told You and Little Fires Everywhere


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 thecase. 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.

Includes bibliographical references.

"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 his case, is forced to face her own story, unearth long-buried family secrets, and reckon with a past that colors her view of Ricky's crime."-- Provided by publisher.

Reviews provided by Syndetics

Library Journal Review

During an internship in law school, -Marzano-Lesnevich (public policy, Harvard Kennedy Sch.) viewed the videotaped confession of a man convicted of murdering a six-year-old boy and possibly molesting him. In an instant, though a lifelong opponent of the death penalty, she wished death upon Ricky Langley. Struggling to pinpoint this new, aggressive feeling, the author began to dig deeper into not only Langley's story but also her own, parallel in disturbing and heart-wrenching ways. Half memoir, half crime investigation, this book alternates among the present, past, and everywhere in between within each of their lives. Marzano-Lesnevich was the victim of sexual abuse by her grandfather, which her parents discovered and halted, only to remain silent on the matter. Descriptions of the murder and sexual abuse throughout are often graphic, and readers may be cautioned. The author describes the court case Palsgraf v. Long Island Railroad Co., which contends with the issue of fault-who or what is the initial cause for blame. She poses a greater philosophical and legal question of one's past and how that determines cause in an exquisite and thought-provoking comparison study. VERDICT The writing is superb and gripping and never heavy-handed on the legal jargon, creating a moving must-have for any collection. [See Prepub Alert, 11/27/16.]-Kaitlin Malixi, Bucks Cty. Free Lib., Doylestown, PA © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publishers Weekly Review

In this haunting hybrid of memoir and true crime account, Marzano-Lesnevich describes how a law school internship set her on a collision course with Ricky Langley, a pedophile and murderer, forcing her to contend with past trauma and preexisting prejudice. Langley was sentenced to death for the 1992 murder of six-year-old Jeremy Guillory, a sentence that was overturned after a surprising request for leniency by the victim's mother. In an impeccably researched account, Marzano-Lesnevich explores Langley's childhood, his repeated efforts to get help, suicide attempts, and a prior prison sentence, during which he told a therapist, "'Don't let me out of here.'" The author draws parallels to her own history of sexual abuse and the family members who failed to confront her abuser, and she recounts her later battles with an eating disorder and PTSD. Marzano-Lesnevich excels at painting an atmospheric portrait: a staircase becomes an ominous symbol, and a house's peeling paint looks like "a skin worn by a creature who lurked underneath." The dual narratives are infinitely layered, as Marzano-Lesnevich allows for each person's motivations and burdens to unspool through the pages. Her writing is remarkably evocative and taut with suspense, with a level of nuance that sets this effort apart from other true crime accounts. (May) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Booklist Review

*Starred Review* As her subtitle implies, true-crime writer and essayist Marzano-Lesnevich here combines two genres, and the result is surprising, suspenseful, and moving. Ricky Langley, living in small-town Louisiana in 1992, is a convicted pedophile trying to turn his life around. He has been mildly successful until he meets six-year-old Jeremy, whom he confesses to murdering; later the boy's body is found in the room Ricky rents. In 2003, Marzano-Lesnevich begins an internship at a Louisiana law firm that's working to convert Ricky's death sentence to life in prison. She is drawn to the law not only because her parents were both lawyers but because she doesn't believe in the death penalty and wants to defend those sentenced to it. Only after seeing Ricky's taped confession does she believe he deserves to die. He is a living reminder of abuse Marzano-Lesnevich suffered as a young child, and as she delves deeper into both her and Ricky's childhoods, she discovers further connections, and each story begins to bleed into the other. The subject matter is difficult, and the author doesn't shy away from graphic descriptions, but readers are rewarded with a book that defies both its genres, turning into something wholly different and memorable.--Sexton, Kathy Copyright 2017 Booklist

Kirkus Book Review

An accomplished literary debut weaves memoir and true-crime investigation.Essayist and lawyer Marzano-Lesnevich (Writing/Harvard Kennedy School of Government) fashions an absorbing narrative about secrets, pain, revenge, and, ultimately, the slippery notion of truth. In 2003, working as a summer intern at a Louisiana law firm that defends clients sentenced to death, the author discovered the case of a child's murder by a confessed pedophile. Passionately opposed to capital punishment, she realized that she wanted this client to die. That responseunsettling and unexpectedincited an interest in the case that became nothing less than an obsession. For 10 years, she read 30,000 pages of documents, including court transcripts, newspaper coverage, and a play based on interviews with the victim's mother; watched the killer's taped confessions from three trials; and traveled multiple times to Louisiana. That fixation inflames another investigation, as well, into her own troubling past. "I am pulled to this story by absences," she writes. "Strange blacknesses, strange forgettings, that overtake me at times. They reveal what is still unresolved inside me." With care and pacing that is sometimes too deliberate, the author reveals the blacknesses in her own family: her father, a successful lawyer, succumbed to rage and depressions; her mother, also a lawyer, was stubbornly silent about her past; the author learns that she was not a twin but really a triplet, with a sister who died within months, never mentioned by the family; and, most horrifically, her grandfather sexually abused her and her younger sister for years. When Marzano-Lesnevich finally revealed the abuse to her parents, they buried it, refusing to acknowledge her pain even when she became severely depressed and anorexic. Her family members, she realizes now, were "prisoners" of their own triumphant narrative: children of immigrants, they were living the American dream, "determinedly fine." The author admits that she has "layered my imagination" onto her sources to make her characters vivid, inevitably raising questions about the line between nonfiction and fiction and about how such embellishment can manipulate the reader's perceptions and sympathies. A powerful evocation of the raw pain of emotional scars. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.