It’s my turn on the blog tour today to tell you all about the fabulous debut novel The Fact of A Body by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich, which was published on 18 May! Huge thanks to PanMacmillan for inviting me on the tour and I hope you enjoy my review!
What’s it about?
Before Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich begins a summer job at a law firm in Louisiana, working to help defend men accused of murder, she thinks her position is clear. The child of two lawyers, she is staunchly anti-death penalty. But the moment convicted murderer Ricky Langley’s face flashes on the screen as she reviews old tapes―the moment she hears him speak of his crimes―she is overcome with the feeling of wanting him to die. Shocked by her reaction, she digs deeper and deeper into the case. Despite their vastly different circumstances, something in his story is unsettlingly, uncannily familiar.
Crime, even the darkest and most unsayable acts, can happen to any one of us. As Alexandria pores over the facts of the murder, she finds herself thrust into the complicated narrative of Ricky’s childhood. And by examining the details of Ricky’s case, she is forced to face her own story, to unearth long-buried family secrets, and reckon with a past that colors her view of Ricky’s crime.
But another surprise awaits: She wasn’t the only one who saw her life in Ricky’s.
An intellectual and emotional thriller that is also a different kind of murder mystery, The Fact Of a Body is a book not only about how the story of one crime was constructed―but about how we grapple with our own personal histories. Along the way it tackles questions about the nature of forgiveness, and if a single narrative can ever really contain something as definitive as the truth. This groundbreaking, heart-stopping work, ten years in the making, shows how the law is more personal than we would like to believe―and the truth more complicated, and powerful, than we could ever imagine.
About Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich
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.
Connect with the author on Twitter : @alexandriaml
If you want to learn more about the case, here’s a link to the evidence pack, which includes footage of Ricky Langley.
Where to even start discussing this novel? How to explain what a special novel The Fact Of A Body is and give honor to the unique and extraordinary nature of this story? I have read a few courtroom cases but none where the court case is really put together by a narration outside of the courtroom in such a striking way.
My first favourite point of course already goes to the fact that this is true crime, reason enough for me that I really wanted to read it and what drew me to this novel in the first place. This is not just some fictious story, this is a legal case about real people (you can even look Ricky Langley up on youtube) and this makes it even a more interesting and valuable read to me. Sometimes in life the realism is just as horrendous as what some authors are imagining and writing down as fiction, and taking the life of an innocent 6-year old boy for no reason at all is so horrific to me that I wanted to know more: who was this person, how could this happen? Could I somehow understand this human better and see him for more than the crime? After reading this novel I have found the answers for myself because yes this one makes you self-reflect about your own beliefs and it will certainly make you ‘live’ Ricky’s life story. This novel is more than satisfying because it gives a face and creates a real character of someone you would only know by name in the media’s headlines. There is no question about guilt here, but it’s his background and past, going back so far as his parents getting together and his conception, and the lead up to this hideous crime that will come forward in the story. The history of Ricky Langley was very thoroughly penned down and the image painted is vivid and an outright tragic and rocky account of his life. The author did it all without any contact with him so this must have taken a painstakenly amount of work and time. The question that rises though is if he could really have escaped this path with everything that’s happened to him? Personally, I still think so. It’s not because you were treated badly (which is debatable too) and you struggle in life with who you are that you can’t change the hand dealt to you, that you have no choice. I know that he was looking for help but does that serve as an excuse? It’s all about the choices someone makes and there’s only that one pivotal moment of wrongful action. It might have started before he was born but there is only one moment that matters to me. Still, there’s plenty food for discussion to be found in here and this novel is all about forming your own opinions and thoughts and trust me that they were bubbling up and there was no keeping them down this time. I love it when a novel makes you think and occupies your thoughts like this.
Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich grew up in a household with two lawyers as parents and she chose to go to law school too (if this is something inspired by the desire for justice for those who aren’t heard in life or her encouraging environment is something I definitely wondered about as well) and she’s opposed to the death penalty. She begins her internship in a law office watching a video tape of Ricky Langley and has to wonder if she can still hold on to her beliefs. Little did she know that it would change her forever because the deeper she gets into his case, the more she’s also relating to her own past. While she’s researching she’s bravely revealing what happened to her as a child and she’s being so devastatingly honest. Entangled is a very raw and painful family history. She really weaves her own history into Ricky Langley’s story in a subtle and magnificent way.
I have a sense that this novel was kind of cathartic for the author. Something that was silenced and ignored for so many years and now there’s no ignoring anymore, now everybody will know. I got the idea that she needed to let it out and to change that feeling inside her of people not acknowledging what happened for so long. Now every reader is part of it and I can understand that gives her some relief. It can’t change the past but it changes the future.
This was a very well researched novel about a crime and a brave memoir of abuse which made it an unforgettable novel to me. I can highly recommend.
Many many thanks to the author for sending me a free copy of this novel through her publisher. It was my pleasure to provide my honest opinion.
You can read an extract of the first chapter here. Go ahead and read it, but know that you’ll probably want to read more!
Here’s the full list of blogs of this book tour, check out the other tour stops too :