Review by Kylie Thompson
Rating: 4 ½ stars
Genre: memoir, true crime
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich dreamed of being a lawyer, like her parents. And from an early age, she knew she was vehemently opposed to the death penalty. So when a choice in summer internships was offered, she knew she wanted to go to Louisiana, to help save lives.
The first case she was to help on was that of Ricky Langley, a paedophile found guilty of the murder of a young boy. She’d assumed, of course, that she’d grit her teeth and struggle through the distaste of representing such a man. That’s the job, after all. And yet, the instant she saw Ricky, and heard his voice, she wanted him to die.
‘The Fact Of A Body’ is a memoir about Marzano-Lesnevich’s quest to understand that reaction to Langley; a heartbreaking story about stories, memories, chances and choices. It’s certainly not the easiest read- the subject matter alone makes sure of that. But for those who can grit their teeth through some rather unsettling subject matter, this is a hauntingly tender story.
If you’re looking for some of that ever-popular crime-voyeurism, this isn’t the book you’re looking for. So easily, Marzano-Lesnevich could have made this just another true crime, ‘journey into the mind of evil’ type narrative. Instead, with a deft and compassionate hand, she paints a picture of a man failed by the system, and its limited understanding of his problems. And through Langley’s story, we learn about Marzano-Lesnevich’s own.
‘The Fact of a Body’ isn’t just a glimpse at the monsters of the world, it’s also, at its heart, a conversation of who the monsters really are. Is it the man who rapes the child, or the man who didn’t, but publicly denies his daughter’s trauma in a bid to save face? Are monsters born, or are they made from a series of choices and moments, many of which are outside of their control? Would Ricky Langley have become a killer, after all, if someone- anyone- had listened to his pleas for help?
This is the sort of book that comes with a trigger warning. It deals with child abuse and murder in somewhat graphic, and deeply unsettling ways. If you’re looking for a happily ever after type of read, this is one to avoid, certainly. But for all the painful, haunting rawness of the stories, there’s a hope within these pages that’s hard to shake.
‘The Fact of a Body’ is a story about stories- about the way we make the people around us into absolute truths when no one person is ever all one thing or another. It may not be the easiest read, but it’s certainly one of 2017’s most thought provoking, haunting works.
‘The Fact of a Body’ is published by Pan Macmillan, and is available at leading retailers both online and off.