- Hardcover: 336 pages
- Publisher: Flatiron Books; First Edition edition (May 16, 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1250080541
- ISBN-13: 978-1250080547
- Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.2 x 9.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 212 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #98,394 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir Hardcover – Deckle Edge, May 16, 2017
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“A memoir/true-crime hybrid that stands up to the best of either genre, and will linger in your mind long after the last page.”
“Marzano-Lesnevich, in her performance of hybridity ― “A Murder and a Memoir” ― is only doing what the best memoirists do: creating a book of fact and body,and speaking, in all their discord, as mother, father, and child.”
― LA Review of Books
“This is a nonfiction book you could give up novels for… Intertwines a riveting true crime story with a brave memoir, reminding us that facing the truth is our only option.”
“Utterly remarkable. It isn’t just that the writing can be beautiful… it isn’t just her coruscating honesty, it is that she understands how very partial the stories we tell ourselves are: the story of themselves that parents choose to tell their children as much as the stories that defence and prosecuting counsels create about events and people. Stories, she sees, are both essential and treacherous... Heroically accomplished.”
―The Times of London
“There are echoes of In Cold Blood in this haunting story…A gothic mixture of memoir and true crime, The Fact of a Body is full of secrets that don’t want to stay buried, that are forced to the surface despite all attempts to keep them submerged… Bold, disquieting… True crime that feels true.”
―The Sunday Times of London
“Dream-stippled prose, at once sharp with beauty and lush with horror.”
―The Boston Globe
“The superb writing and story-telling keep luring you back. Marzano-Lesnevich writes with a beautifully deft one-two-three punch of grace, power and raw emotion.”
―The Buffalo News
"This book is a marvel. With unflinching precision and immense compassion, Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich peels apart both a murder case and her own experience to reveal how we try to make sense of the past. 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
“A fascinating hybrid of true crime and memoir, The Fact of a Body is intricately constructed, emotionally raw, and unflinching. Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich has written a gripping meditation on memory, justice, and the limits of empathy.”
"The Fact of a Body is unlike any murder story I've ever read, a masterpiece of both reportage and memoir, a book that could only be written by an author with Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich's staggering gifts: a relentless reporter with a law degree from Harvard, a poet's understanding of the cadence of a line, and a novelist's gift for empathy. Walter Benjamin famously said that all great works of art either dissolve a genre or invent one. This book does both, and its greatness is undeniable."
―Justin St. Germain, author of Son of a Gun
"The Fact of a Body is remarkable act of witness, an anatomy of silence and the violence it abets, a book of both public and private accountings. Rejecting the false comfort of certainty, it confronts the inadequacy of all our tools for fathoming not just unforgivable crimes, but the baffling, human grace that can forgive them. This is a profound and riveting book."
― Garth Greenwell, author of What Belongs to You
"The balancing act here performed between autobiography and journalism, documentary and imagination, witnessing and reckoning, the tender and the terrible, is shrewd and graceful. In the hands of a lesser human or writer, it could have all fallen apart; instead, Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich has given us an exquisite and exquisitely difficult work of art that makes a fierce claim on our attention, conscience, and heart."
― Maggie Nelson, author of the NBCC award-winning Argonauts
"Haunting...impeccably researched...Her writing is remarkably evocative and taut with suspense, with a level of nuance that sets this effort apart from other true crime accounts."
―Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
“An accomplished literary debut…an absorbing narrative about secrets, pain, revenge, and, ultimately, the slippery notion of truth…A powerful evocation of the raw pain of emotional scars.”
"Compulsive, eloquent and profoundly troubling. One of those rare books which embrace the genuine complexity of life."
― Mark Haddon, bestselling author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
“The writing is superb and gripping…a moving must-have.”
―Library Journal, starred review
“Surprising, suspenseful, and moving…A book that defies both its genres, turning into something wholly different and memorable.”
―Booklist, starred review
“Haunting… Marzano-Lesnevich digs into one case that begins to feel oddly familiar, and eventually is forced to confront her understanding of justice, forgiveness, and truth.”
“THE FACT OF A BODY is excellent. So gripping and fascinating.”
―Sophie Hannah, New York Times bestselling author of The Monogram Murders
“Suspenseful and spellbinding.”
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About the Author
A 2014 National Endowment for the Arts fellow, she has received a Rona Jaffe Award and has twice been a fellow at both MacDowell and Yaddo. Her essays appear in the New York Times, Oxford American, and the anthologies TRUE CRIME and WAVEFORM: Twenty-first Century Essays by Women, as well as many other publications. She received her JD from Harvard, her MFA at Emerson College, and her BA from Columbia University. She now lives in Boston, where she teaches at Grub Street and in the graduate public policy program at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.
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The two stories are so intense, that although, both hard to read, I became engrossed in the reactions of her family as well as the town’s, to this criminal, his family’s as well as the length that the trials went on, and on.
The book is beyond a memoir. It combines true crime, with the author’s imagined scenarios of what went on in various courtroom settings during the trials and how she follows this man’s crime as well as the victim to understand what was done to her, and ultimately to free herself of her haunting past.
It is brave, scary, revealing, and a look into a world that you would otherwise not know. I commend her for her diligence, for confronting her family, for writing this book, for having the courage to explore such a difficult subject that must have been painful with every single piece of research that she did and every single word that she wrote. This book will leave you thinking about hard issues about our legal system, mental health treatment, the death penalty, and familial responsibility.
To read about other people’s situations that you might otherwise never know, despite their outward appearance, their present success, is eye-opening. To know what they have overcome and how they have done so, is remarkable.
What she does well: this is probably one of the best representations of PTSD and the effects of childhood trauma from sexual abuse that I've ever read. It is so well done, in fact, that I had to put it down several times, so content warnings for those who have survived similar trauma: this book is very difficult to read at times. That said, reading through it, sometimes tense in my chair, I started to understand my own reactions, even the reactions I was having as I read it. I think others who have suffered trauma, especially sexual abuse as a child, will find much of value in this book, even as it is difficult. Also, I did not want to have sympathy for the murderer in this book. As the author clearly states, neither did she. She wanted him to die. I did too. And yet, she manages to do something I certainly could not: she explores his life in obsessive detail and she presents a complex picture of a man who did horrible horrible things. And yet, she makes him human. She tries, also to do this with her grandfather, and I think it is clear that part of the book is about exploring what it means to be a person who could do this sort of thing to a child. She has no answers for us. There are no answers. But her strength and tenacity in trying to unravel why these things happen is amazing.
Yes, the book is quite detailed, thoughtful, working often on a metaphoric level. It is a literary book. A memoir. It means to do that. There were times I wondered at the sheer level of detail, but as a reader and writer I also appreciated it: the writer was also quite clear on when she was imagining things (such as putting the killer's mother in a housedress of the style her own grandmother wore), and when she took information from sources she had seen. Other than the level of detail, which sometimes even put me off, and I generally like it, I have no complaints: this book was intelligently written, carefully and beautifully structured, and in the end, terribly human. I am in awe of this writer who could manage to stick with this investigation into the life of a man that most of us don't want to think of at all--a convicted pedophile and child killer. But here's the thing: if we stay silent (as some reviews have suggested), then other children get hurt. If we stay silent, we never have a hope of understanding how someone comes to do these terrible things, and without understanding that, how can we ever stop it? Certainly what we are doing now is not working--children are abused every day. Some of us have the strength and courage to eventually tell our own stories. And some, like this amazing author, have the courage to tell both her own story and the story of an abuser (welll, two in her case). I applaud her, and difficult as this book was for me to read--and it was--I feel I am further along on my journey of dealing with childhood sexual abuse from reading this book.
Thank you to the author. You have really done something amazing with this book.
In some circles much as been made of the authors embellishment of the narrative. Ms. Marzano-Lesnevich has filled in, to some extent, the Langley case story where there was no court records but she has done so with great care and complete transparency so I did not find this problematic in the context of this book and the story she was telling. The unique perspective and artfulness she brings to the story as both attorney and victim is so compelling as to make these issues seem slight in comparison.