I always struggle when I review a work of non-fiction- especially when it is a memoir. Who am I to judge if someone has a story that needs to be told?
However, when #cjsreads chose this book for one of our May titles, I figured I would try!
The Fact of A Body, a non-fiction novel by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich, was one that I was very intrigued by. Following an anti-death penalty lawyer in the deep South, her perception is changed when her firm begins working on a case with convicted murderer and child molester, Ricky Langley. Part true crime, part memoir, Marzano-Lesnevich, recalls her time watching the confession tapes and going through the crimes, but also how it connects to her own personal history.
The book opens with Marzano-Lesnevich arriving at her new law firm for her summer internship in Louisiana. As she begins watching the first tapes of Ricky Langley, something inside her stirs and she cannot ignore her unsettling feeling. Narrated through alternate time periods, the memoir jumps around and then blends together in its finale. Chapters uncover not only Rickey’s life and his crimes but also his past and his family history. Marzano-Lesnevich explores her own past and childhood.
This work was really different. At times, I felt as if it was a little jumpy, but the author does make sure to label each chapter with their time period so it can be followed. I was incredibly interested in the chapters surrounding the psychology of Langley; the author does a phenomenal job of presenting the facts of his case and trial.
However, my favourite part of the novel was the author’s ability to recognize how personal histories can affect a perception.
I applaud the author’s courage to be able to share her own tale and publish this body of work. I feel like all true crime fans will be interested in this one!
Thanks to the publisher (Flatiron) and the author for the copy of this novel; it was my pleasure to provide an honest review.
Keep reading to see what Chandra and Jessica thought of this one!
What Chandra Thought
I have never read a book like this one. Bouncing back and forth between the tales, the author’s research and clear ability to weave a story seeps through the pages and into ever fibre of your being. You can see her bare her own soul unabashedly while somehow making you empathize for Ricky. She also has the ability in her reconstruction to show how everyone else affected by this case uses their own experiences to try and understand. Personal experiences give people reason to find compassion in some cases. She truly shows the complexities of holding on to secrets, raw emotion, and the scars that become part of human growth, both physically and mentally. Her blending of her own memoir with this true crime story is unprecedented and something that will be with me for a long time coming.
Fans of Serial and Making a Murderer will be fascinated by this novel. If you pick up this book, and you should, take the time to read the foreword, the Sources Consulted section and the Author’s acknowledgement.
What Jessica Thought
The Fact of a Body by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich is unlike any other book that I’ve read. It’s a combination of a memoir and a murder case. It was very intriguing reading through the author’s background and what led her to the Ricky Langley case. When I saw that this was part memoir, I was a little curious as to how this would all play out. The legal disclaimer at the beginning of the book is very helpful and informative (how all the information given about Langley is something that is publicly available, from trial, etc).