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The Fact of a Body

A Murder and a Memoir

By Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich
Narrated by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich / 10 hours 37 minutes
Bookseller Recommendation

“Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich didn't set out to investigate murder of six-year-old Jeremy Guillory in Louisiana; it was the case she happened upon as a young law school intern in 1992. In a fascinating twist, this becomes not only the true story of a heinous crime for which the perpetrator is in prison, but also of the investigation that unlocks the author's memories of her own youth, a childhood in which she and her sisters were repeatedly sexually abused by their maternal grandfather. As Marzano-Lesnevich moves backward and forward in time between the young man who killed Jeremy and her own life, the reader is swept along on a current of dismay and awe: dismay that human beings can do these things to each other, and awe that the author could face such demons and move on. I've never read another book like this.”

Anne Holman image Anne Holman, The King's English

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.

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 an audiobook 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.

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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 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

“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

Reviews

“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.”

Entertainment Weekly

“Dream-stippled prose, at once sharp with beauty and lush with horror.”

The Boston Globe

“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.”

Kirkus

About the Author

Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich is a 2014 National Endowment for the Arts fellow, an award given for her work on The Fact of a Body. She has received a Rona Jaffe Award and fellowships to the MacDowell Colony and Yaddo. Her essays appear in the New York Times, Oxford American, and the anthology Waveform: Twenty-first Century Essays by Women. She lives in Boston, where she teaches at Grub Street and in the graduate public policy program at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.


Related Reading

At a Law Firm that Defended a Child Murderer, an Intern Recalls Her Own Childhood Abuse
The New York Times

Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich’s The Fact of a Body Is a True Crime Masterpiece
Vogue

A murder, a memoir and the secrets that bind them together
Los Angeles Times

Author Website

Author
Narrator Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich
ISBN 9781427286543
Length 10 hours 37 minutes
Language English
Publisher Macmillan Audio
Publication Date
Abridged No
 
In the books I find the thrum of everything unsayable. The characters weep the way I want to, love the way I want to, cry, die, beat their breasts, and bray with life. When a lifeline comes, you don’t evaluate whether it’s the right one. You just grab for it, and hold on. I have come to believe that every family has its defining action, its defining belief. From childhood, I understood that my parents’ was this: Never look back. The law—with each side’s relentless pursuit of one story—has never known what to do with this complicated middle ground. But life is full of it. Consistency is what we prize, and coherency, and reason, and to be true to our ideals so that they fit together into the neat puzzle of us.

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