Book Reviews

The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir

Author: Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich
Published: May 16, 2017 by Flatiron Books
Genre: Memoir; True Crime
Hardcover: 326 pages
Stars: 3 1/2 out of 5

This is an atmospheric story that starts in a small town in Louisiana in 1992. This is where the true story of 26 year old Ricky Langley, who has a history of pedophilia, takes the life of 6 year old Jeremy Guillory. Because of the subject matter, there is no doubt this would be a difficult read for some. This is not just a straight up true crime story, though. It is a lot more. It’s really two stories in one and the author brilliantly weaves together her own history, and why it is so important to her to understand Ricky’s story.

The author, Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich, first encounters Ricky’s story when she is a law student, and hired by a firm in Louisiana to defend death row inmates. Going in, she believes she is against the death penalty, but after seeing a video taped confession of Ricky, she has no doubt that she wants to see this man die for his crime. The author is the victim of child abuse herself at the hands of her grandfather. She is forced to face her own family history of abuse, and she believes untangling Ricky’s history, will help her understand and come to terms with her own.

The author masterfully weaves together her story of growing up into Ricky’s story of the crime that takes place and the aftermath. I was in awe of the writing – it was that well done! Although the two stories take place 10 years apart and in different parts of the country, I never had trouble following the plot. The organization of the book is clear throughout, and I felt alternating from one time period and story to the next is part of what keeps the book moving at a good pace.

I like the way we see the author’s early years through the eyes of a child. When her parents are having problems, we see it just the way a child, who doesn’t really understand what’s going on, would see it. I also like the way the author only had court documents, her research, and her memory to rely on, but is able to vividly recreate the scene for the reader.

I do like a good true crime novel every once in awhile – one of my favorites being In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. I think I was expecting another straight forward true crime novel when I picked this up, but what I got was a lot more, and that’s not completely a good thing. It was about the crime, but it was also heavily about pedophilia and the life long effects of this on a family. Quite honestly, as a whole, the book was heavy, and deep, and sad. The author does not sensationalize the difficult topics in any way – everything she writes about is important to the story – but she doesn’t sugar coat or shy away from them either. And the book lost a little steam for me in the middle. I was pretty engrossed in the beginning, but some of the growing up years got a little long winded for me.

It is a difficult book to review because of the subject matter, but I’ll sum up the book by using a quote from it:

“What you see in Ricky killing Jeremy, I have come to believe, depends as much on who you are and the life you’ve had as on what he did.”

Ultimately this book is about how our own experiences color the way we see the world.

After reading this, I’m craving a light, fun, and fluffy book to read next!

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