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If Loving You is Wrong Mass Market Paperback – August 1, 1999

3.7 out of 5 stars 233 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The tale seems ripe for tabloid exploitation: the fresh-faced blond elementary schoolteacher and mother of four just couldn't keep her hands off that 13-year-old boy. Worse yet, Mary Kay Letourneau had become obsessed with the slight, Samoan teenager while he was still a student in her sixth-grade class--and he fathered two babies with her. Yet in the hands of true crime writer Gregg Olsen, If Loving You Is Wrong becomes a poignant profile of an emotionally stunted young woman tightly wound up in a web of lies too fragile to sustain the weight of her own compulsions.

The facade the Letourneaus presented to the world was that of a devoted, upwardly mobile young couple. In reality Steve and Mary Kay were on the verge of financial and emotional bankruptcy. They married because she'd become pregnant and appearances were everything to Mary Kay's parents, ultra-conservative, family-values-promoting politician John Schmitz and his icy wife, Mary. Olsen, whose previous books include Abandoned Prayers and Black Widow, does a superior job with the story, interviewing Letourneau herself as well as friends and neighbors, researching and assembling the facts behind the lurid headlines in a nonjudgmental manner that allows readers to draw their own conclusions about the bigger issues at stake. Was Mary Kay Letourneau a pedophile, a child rapist, a female Humbert Humbert? Or was she, as she claims, a woman who'd found a soul mate and a true love that defied America's puritanical norms? Read If Loving You Is Wrong and decide for yourself. --Patrizia DiLucchio

Review

"Wonderfully researched...Searing and brilliant...A must-read!"-- Ann Rule, bestselling author of Bitter Harvest
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Product Details

  • Series: St. Martin's True Crime Library
  • Mass Market Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's True Crime (August 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312970129
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312970123
  • Product Dimensions: 4.1 x 1.1 x 6.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (233 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,430,041 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I live in rural Washington State (about a mile as the crow flies from Starvation Heights). I've wrapped up my ninth novel -- a serial killer thriller coming out in November 2014. It's called The Girl in the Woods. I've been a guest on Dateline NBC, NPR, Good Morning America, The Early Show, FOX News; CNN, Anderson Cooper 360, Entertainment Tonight, Inside Edition, Extra, Access Hollywood, Snapped, Deadly Women, William Shatner's Aftermath, and A&E's Biography.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback
Mr. Gregg Olsen showed up unanounced on my door step well over two years ago. He was is dire search of people who had known Mary. Since I had been her neighbor for close to 8 years, he thought my home would be a good place to begin gathering information for his new book: "If Loving You Is Wrong". Would I help him? Could I give him names of other people who knew Mary? You see, Mr. Olsen was having a very difficult time finding people who would talk openly about Mary's situation. So, being an aspiring writer myself,I was sympathetic to his situation and said, "Sure, come on in". Let me begin by saying I liked Mary. I did not agree with what she did, but I did like her, and was saddened by her state of affairs. When Mr. Olsen interviewed me he told me his book, "If Loving You IS Wrong" would be a non-fiction book. Therefore, you can understand my shock and saddness when I read the book after it's release. It read like fiction, was filled with many untruths, and, I can honestly say I would be surprised if 60% of what he wrote was actual fact. I say this because I know the whole true story of Mary, and I know most of the people he wrote about. My name is Leslee Browning, and Mr. Olsen used my real name in his book. What he wrote about me, and what he said I said in my interview with him, was almost a complete fabrication of his imagination. I found this fabrication to be a constant theme throughout his writing in both describing the character of those who contributed to his book, and when quoting what my family, neighbors and friends actually told him when he interviewed them. Why am I so late in writing this review?Read more ›
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I passed the Mary Kay Letourneau book "If loving you is wrong" several times before finally picking it up. Although it said true crime I knew there was no physical violence. Since I am a avid true crime reader, having read books like "In cold blood" and "Buried Secrets" I know that most true crime books have bodies that are destroyed. No, this was not a crime where bodies did not survive, it is a crime where minds may may not survive.
Although the book was a quick read for me I noticed that the crime was hardly mentioned until the book was half over. I realized that Mr Olsen wanted to get as much information as he could to the reader to help explain things and people before the events had unfolded. For me that is the most important part of a book on any true crime. Also although the author let us reader's know what help and information he personally did or didn't get to put this story together, as a crime journalist he did an excellent job of using the resoures he had.
I believe he truely gave this sorry state of affairs not only it's just due, but left a soft cushion for the six young lives involved. For now the sad crime is physically over, but down the line after the young people witness taboids and movies about it, hopefully this non-malicious, well written book on the events they had no control over will help let them assimulate what has happened to their family and why. In fact I believe they may be the only ones there for her after it's all said and done.
Personally for a true crime book that was minus blood and gore, and that has the possibility of a follow-up I'd give it 6 stars and a thumb up.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Mark Twain once said, "Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn't." Olsen's book lends strong support to this timeless statement.
This book lays out in sad and shocking detail how a grown woman with four kids badly in need of support sexually entices, entangles, and manipulates an unremarkable boy who is not much older than her oldest son. Much has been made of this high shock-value, fit-for-the-tabloids case, but when all is said and done, we are left with a miserable, pathetic wretch of a woman who manages to ruin not only her own life, but also those closest to her.
At first glance, this book is a fluff read and a classic example of tabloid journalism. However, those of us who can put our outrage, disgust and contempt aside will find that the book presents us with a very interesting criminal psychological profile. It is most likely the best representation of how a disturbed mind can distort reality to his or her unconscious, selfish and depraved desires- and how public opinion can further add to such delusions. Olsen's thinly veiled attempt to portray Ms. Letourneau as 'a victim of circumstance' falls flat once the various sordid details of the book are clearly laid out.
The book gives good background information on Mary, Vili, her youthful, juvenille victim/lover, and other major and minor players. Olsen presents a cohesive story in the beginning, but the yarn slowly devolves into anecdotal hearsay towards the middle.
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