The Fact of a Body : A Murder and a Memoir
by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich

Overview -

"A True Crime Masterpiece" - Vogue
Entertainment Weekly "Must" List and Best Books of the Year So Far
Real Simple's Best New Books

" The Fact of a Body is one of the best books I've read this year.  Read more...

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More About The Fact of a Body by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich

"A True Crime Masterpiece" - Vogue
Entertainment Weekly "Must" List and Best Books of the Year So Far
Real Simple's Best New Books

"The Fact of a Body is one of the best books I've read this year. It's just astounding."
-- Paula Hawkins, author of Into the Water and The Girl on the Train

"This book is a marvel. 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

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.

  • ISBN-13: 9781250080547
  • ISBN-10: 1250080541
  • Publisher: Flatiron Books
  • Publish Date: May 2017
  • Page Count: 336
  • Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.6 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds

Related Categories

Books > True Crime > Murder - General
Books > Family & Relationships > Abuse - Child Abuse
Books > Family & Relationships > Dysfunctional Families

BookPage Reviews

A case that hit uncomfortably close to home

During a summer internship in Louisiana in 2003, Harvard law student Alexandria Marzano-Les­nevich heard about a case involving a pedophile who murdered a 6-year-old boy in 1992. When she watched the recorded confession of Ricky Langley, she writes that it “brought me to reexamine everything I believed not only about the law but about my family and my past.”

Marzano-Lesnevich lays out that re-examination in her unusual and riveting book, The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir, in which she interweaves the story of Langley’s crime with her own personal trauma.

The author, the daughter of two lawyers, grew up in a New Jersey family that was loving but refused to look back at the past. Problems such as her father’s depression and the death of Alexandria’s triplet baby sister were rarely, if ever, discussed. Marzano-Lesnevich, however, couldn’t stop looking back. Her grandfather sexually abused her and her sisters, and her parents tried to bury this fact. Later, they tried to ignore her anger. Despite this and other challenges, including tumultuous years spent dealing with undiagnosed Lyme disease and an eating disorder, Marzano-Les­nevich made a “Hail Mary pass to the future” by enrolling in Harvard Law School.

Marzano-Lesnevich’s triumph is in the way she simultaneously tells her story and Langley’s, showing how in both cases the past haunts the present, and how facts, memories, guilt, responsibility and forgiveness can be impossibly hard to pinpoint or fully understand. Her recounting of her grandfather’s abuse is a haunting exposé of what it feels like to be a victim. And while Langley will spend his life in prison, her grandfather, she writes, “got away with it.”

The author tells Langley’s story by reconstructing scenes based on court documents, transcripts, media coverage and even a play based on the case. She also relies heavily on the “creative” part of creative nonfiction—a method some may question—layering her “imagination onto the bare-bones record of the past to bring Langley’s past to life.”

Both stories are gripping enough in their own right to fill a book; Marzano-Lesnevich’s artful entwining enriches them both.

This article was originally published in the May 2017 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

BAM Customer Reviews