Book Review: The Fact of a Body – Alexandria Marzano Lesnevich

Rating 4 Star

Synopsis: 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.

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Trigger warning: This book has a heavy focus on sexual abuse.
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Although the title of the post has ‘Review’ in it, I don’t feel that I can review this book in the same way as I would other books.

I felt guilty for reading this book, almost like I was reading the authors private diary, which in a way I guess I was. She bares her soul and I don’t feel like I’m in a position to write a post along the lines of ‘I liked this.. I didn’t like this’

I have never been through anything remotely similar to what Alexandria Marzano Lesnevich has been through. So, I have no idea how it made her feel, how it still makes her feel. Even if I had been through the same thing, I wouldn’t be in a position to offer a critique on this book because that would just be inhumane.

What I will say is this:

The Fact of a Body is mix of memoir and true crime. What I didn’t realise when I started reading it is that the crime involved different people, in an entirely different place to that of the ‘memoir’ element. Sounds strange, right? But it works because you soon learn why Alexandria Marzano Lesnevich became interested in the crime in the first place and why it changed her life.

Both of her parents were lawyers and for as long as she can remember, she’s had an interest in the law. In addition, for as long as she can remember, she has been opposed to the death penalty.

In her mid-twenties, she starts an internship at a law firm in New Orleans who specialise in opposing the death penalty. They show the interns a video of Ricky Langley, who is facing the death penalty for the murder of a 6 year old boy, Jeremy Guillory. When Alexandria watches this video, she realises something: She wants Ricky Langley to die.

I have no desire to give away spoilers for this book, because it honestly is an amazing read. There are so many different layers to this book. It doesn’t just focus on the murder of Jeremy Guillory, it also shines light on the upbringing of not just Jeremy, but also Ricky.

  • Was Ricky Langley always destined to turn out this way?
  • Did the legal system fail Ricky?
  • Why did Jeremy’s mother stand up in court and put forward a case for Ricky, the man who murdered her 6 year old son, to be saved from the death penalty?
  • Why is Alexandria Marzano Lesnevich so interested in this case?
  • Why did she want Ricky Langley to die as soon as she watched a video of him?

There’s just so many thought provoking elements to this book and I have to say, I really admire the author because the way she writes about every character in this book is so respectful, even when she’s writing about characters who don’t deserve any respect at all. I couldn’t do that, so she’s a bigger person than me!

It’s easy to forgot that parts of this book are fiction. Alexandria has created certain scenarios in the past that MIGHT have happened…. But we have no record of them. I think it’s important to remember that, as the book is so gripping it is easy to forget.

This book is heavy. I had to stop reading at certain points because it just got too much. I read a lot of crime books, but this felt different. This ACTUALLY happened and still happens. So yeah, it’s definitely heavy.

If you’re into crime books, true crime and/or crime podcasts, I’d definitely recommend it!

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