Long-buried secrets

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

With most books I read them because of a blurb I've seen or the book description on the back cover or the like. All of which means I have some idea of the content. With The Fact of a Body, I thought I had that information and then the book turned into something else altogether and that turned out to be just fine.

I thought this would be an in depth investigation into a true crime (a heinous one) and and exploration of the legal system and the death penalty. It was all of that, but it's also a highly personal memoir of the author who used the fact of this body to explore and reveal the secrets of her own childhood. Along the way, she delves into how this crime with this perpetrator and victim make her alter her views on the death penalty and on the judgements she's made about the people in her life.

Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich took a summer internship while she was in law school. The internship was at a firm in Louisiana that worked on appeals in death penalty cases. She thinks she is strongly against the death penalty, but finds things aren't as black and white as they appear when her first case is one in which Ricky Langley is on death row for the murder (and possible molestation) of a six-year-old boy. Is this a crime too terrible to allow only for life in prison? What about if the mother of the murdered child has spoken on behalf of Ricky at the most recent appeal hearing? Does she get a say? These questions send Alexandria into a deep dive investigation into the facts of this crime, the facts of the lives of the people involved (guilty and innocent) and into her own past.

The subtitle for this one "A Murder and a Memoir" is apt - and really if I'd been paying more attention to it, I might not have been as surprised at how personal and revealing the author gets - because this is just that a memoir and a murder investigation. Both beautifully done.