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

The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir

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―s...

Title:The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir
Author:
Rating:
ISBN:1250080541
Edition Language:English
Format Type:Hardcover
Number of Pages:336 pages

The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir Reviews

  • Mike Scalise
    Jan 15, 2017

    If you are a fan of true crime, this book is excellent. If you are a fan of memoir, this book is excellent. If you are a fan of legal thrillers, this book is excellent. If you are a fan of beautiful language, this book is excellent. If you are a fan of page-turners, this book is excellent. If you are a fan of boundlessly empathetic storytelling and brilliant questions about the meaning of acceptance, this book is excellent. If you are a fan of a scene in which one character manages, maybe, to ha

    If you are a fan of true crime, this book is excellent. If you are a fan of memoir, this book is excellent. If you are a fan of legal thrillers, this book is excellent. If you are a fan of beautiful language, this book is excellent. If you are a fan of page-turners, this book is excellent. If you are a fan of boundlessly empathetic storytelling and brilliant questions about the meaning of acceptance, this book is excellent. If you are a fan of a scene in which one character manages, maybe, to have sex while in a body cast, this book is excellent. If you are a fan of all of these things together, you have to read this book. It is excellent.

  • Liz Barnsley
    Mar 16, 2017

    The Fact of a Body was less a non fiction narrative and more a work of art – I don’t think I have been sucked into a book in the way this one sucked me in for a good long while. Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich writes with such a beautiful, haunting quality that gets over so many layers of emotional depth whilst still keeping it factual and real, that you can one moment be feeling like you are watching events unfold in real time and the next sobbing like a baby at one small sentence that says everyt

    The Fact of a Body was less a non fiction narrative and more a work of art – I don’t think I have been sucked into a book in the way this one sucked me in for a good long while. Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich writes with such a beautiful, haunting quality that gets over so many layers of emotional depth whilst still keeping it factual and real, that you can one moment be feeling like you are watching events unfold in real time and the next sobbing like a baby at one small sentence that says everything.

    At the heart of it all is not only this killer, Ricky Langley, but also the author herself as she delves into her own mind and her own history in an attempt to understand that which cannot be understood. She takes you along on a journey of discovery, one of unpalatable realities, poignant self realisation and historical influence, it is at turns heart breaking, utterly riveting and melancholy, get ready to be hooked, unable to look away.

    The Fact of a Body often reads like a literary thriller, I found myself remembering with a jolt that these were real people living real lives – the author shows the mundane routine of living, alongside the telling events that informed eventual acts, alongside the things that cannot be explained no matter how much we may wish for a reason. Throughout the whole of the telling there are moments of quiet, occasional times you step away from the read and absorb what you have just learned – the historical detail, the absolute compassion with which the author allows the “characters” in this drama to live and breathe on the page is just stunning in its intensity. And we must not forget she is one of them – and does not hide from her own horrors simply lays them bare before us.

    This is a tangled, beautiful, intelligently told true story that will surprise you, an unravelling of human nature, a truly incredible look at the power of memory, the influences of life experience and that which we hide from ourselves – as well as that it is a truly compelling and absolutely gripping crime story and family memoir.

    I really cannot recommend this highly enough.

  • Jeanette
    May 18, 2017

    This is one of the best books I've ever read that cores a murder case which resulted in a death penalty conviction. It's one of the very few which although in the end tone seems to support a strong movement toward making death penalty executions a thing of the past; STILL- it fully reveals the other side of needing and SO wanting that person to be "not alive" for the torture and horror that they initiated, and which STILL echoes throughout numberless lives' "after effects". And especially for th

    This is one of the best books I've ever read that cores a murder case which resulted in a death penalty conviction. It's one of the very few which although in the end tone seems to support a strong movement toward making death penalty executions a thing of the past; STILL- it fully reveals the other side of needing and SO wanting that person to be "not alive" for the torture and horror that they initiated, and which STILL echoes throughout numberless lives' "after effects". And especially for those who HEAR the murderer admit they could and will do it again if not contained.

    It's a non-fiction memoir and dual bio book that will NOT be recommended for every reader out there, regardless of your age or condition. It just isn't. It's as hard as it gets to read some of this for this kind of "eyes" and cognition of perversions. Not in the foulness of the language, but in the core of the perversion habit itself and how it echoes in the physical and mental souls of the victims throughout their lives. Many good people, much more innocent, maybe more sheltered, and vast numbers too fragile or emotional- may not be able to connote Alexandria's own experiences on a horror scale, let alone the murderer's or the victims'. Yes, the victims are plural. Not only Jeremy, the murdered 6 year old tow head. But the dozens of people in Iowa, Louisiana. And all of those of the past too that Alexandria notes in familial fashion for her own background of locations and ancestry. Those past families that added to, abetted, and didn't "see".

    Having done case study work for a degree to counsel- and having also done dispatch in a women's shelter, in which domestic abuse is the main course every single day! STILL! And I use that word- STILL- again! Still, this tale hits the crux of abuse to children in degree more than I heard- as much as it also sees a particular murder in all of its layers to a point that is seldom reached in print. And never within "intake" documents or bureaucratic pages of police procedural, either.

    Do I like how Alexandria relates her own case and memory? Sometimes not. But it IS hers and she tells it more harshly in parts and with more specific detail than I would wont to read or hear. So that, quite apart from the murder particulars, is something that should be warned about in this review. This is NOT for the cozy mystery or chick lit reader fare of dysfunction material. Not for those who are offended or sickened by an animal or child neglect episode or some such other retort of profanity squabble related to it. Because this describes and surrounds a human void AND an entire child sexual abuse family pattern of 3 to 4 generations (maybe more?). In real life, as it was. As it covers living people's emotional self-identity now too. And also the system of association (some would say "the village') which has here (and often in my own individual case patterns it was quite like this- THAT exact collective "we think" mentality/ mores) than enables a certain cultural/ habitual "eyes" pattern. A context which has more than a strong occasion to "not see" or "self explain" with considerable rationalization for a quizzical self sensibility when things seem "off" or "funny". Because the everyday looks "normal". And as result? Emotional feelings and love connections of other bonds then overpower for and in a group, extended family or entire surrounds neighborhood- which then holds a tilted scale of skewed moral compass to the truth of what is going on. Blindness in cognition and in actions for something that is too difficult to accept as a connection to the more visible "kind" or "nice" member or bonded beloved of a "friend" group.

    It's written in a layered style that is so onion like that I find it hard to describe. You are in dozens of time periods and for at least 4 family groups in all these exact eras and childhoods. And for most of the copy, I would say nearly a third of the copy- you are within child's "eyes". It is usually Alexandria's memory but at times it can also be others who are now adults or ancestors or descendants. Time is entirely fluid. As Alexandria notes again and again- there is no specific "time" that is "now" for her. She is all of the "body" (her body in which she lives) of before and the after effect of the future too- all combined at once. She is never completely present tense.

    She is now a writer. And I can't tell you much about her as a young lawyer approaching a career in defending murderers against a death penalty without giving you major spoilers. So I will just say that the read itself may seem hard, confusing, and for some possibly incomprehensible. Because it surrounds humans in conditions that are what I would describe as having/owning vast voids in their entire make up. In both the physical/mental, and psychological make ups. More than having a disease or DSM5 condition or dysfunction. It is what it is only. And what it is, it will ever be. And it's forever embedded too within learned layers of protective disguise for being what it is and wants; there is little of themselves (people of void and failures embraced) that exists apart from it. If you are the person who believes that all humans are redeemable by their very natures or that justice can be approximated in a much larger society? You may be compelled by this read and interested- but I wonder if you would be able to grasp some of its base "conclusions". Or if you will just question them as Alexandria's progression does?

    Alexandria made the correct decision about her life's work in the long run. She is an excellent writer. And beyond honest and approaching hero brave core. Unlike her sister, or the murder victim's Mother, she is really able to look directly into the light of the real actions committed. In her case, it is probably a very good thing she can.

    This is one of those non-fiction books in which you are THERE with Alexandria. So watch out for scars. And keep your own eyes open for all the details, connotations of giggles, "joking" or any of the stranger or loved one fall out you notice in patterns. Not just in this book, but in your own life, as well.

    Some of us have been so lucky in that our birth family, or wider community, or our societal "troop" of our upbringing- was majority offensive blabbermouths. This I do know. Mine was dozens and dozens of people who had common moral compass plus immense aversion to quiet and mannerly or any custom habit of secretive and insular social interchange. That Grandmother who heard that creak of the stairs! Save us all from such positions of dependability on others or from such wonderful 5 or 6 decade length marriages. Please!

    It's TWO life stories. But it also is far more.

    Lastly, I have to say this as a disclaimer. I believe in the death penalty for two reasons and neither of them are revenge. But the first and strongest is that it ends the course towards MORE victims. It is the only one that does.

  • Susan
    Apr 24, 2017

    It is hard to categorise this book – partly, it is the disturbing story of a murder, but it is much more than that. Part memoir, written almost as a novel, this is a painful, thoughtful account of a crime and how it affected those involved , but also how it changed the life of author Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich. The author is the daughter of a lawyer and, as long as she can remember, she recalls being fascinated by the law. At the age of twenty five, she went to New Orleans to fight the death p

    It is hard to categorise this book – partly, it is the disturbing story of a murder, but it is much more than that. Part memoir, written almost as a novel, this is a painful, thoughtful account of a crime and how it affected those involved , but also how it changed the life of author Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich. The author is the daughter of a lawyer and, as long as she can remember, she recalls being fascinated by the law. At the age of twenty five, she went to New Orleans to fight the death penalty, by interning with a law firm that represented people accused of murder.

    The author believed her views and opinions were set in stone, but then she meets Ricky Langley, who is facing the death penalty for the murder of six year old Jeremy Guillory. Jeremy was the son of a single mother, Lorilei; who was pregnant with her second child when Jeremy went missing. Marzano-Lesnevich entwines the story of Lorilei and Jeremy, with that of Ricky Langley and with that of her own life.

    I have no wish to give spoilers in this review and you need to read this book in order to discover the links between those involved. However, this is a book about how the past impacts the present. About how families have secrets and how life is not as clear cut as we imagine it to be. There are grey areas which, unlike in a novel, are not easily wrapped up, completed, finished or put away. We carry our life experiences with us and they colour our opinions, shape our present and influence our future. This is a beautifully written, very moving book, in which every person touched by events are dealt with sympathetically and with respect. I am glad that I read it. I received a copy of this book from the publisher, via NetGalley, for review.

  • Emma
    May 05, 2017

    Blending the best facets of history and historical fiction writing, this memoir of both the factual and imagined past bring alive the murder of a young boy, Jeremy Guillory, by a confessed pedophile, alongside the author's own sexual abuse by her grandfather. It's not easy reading but it's exceptionally well written. Despite having an opposition to capital punishment that was fundamental to her decision to study law, her introduction to this death penalty case while working as intern led Marzano

    Blending the best facets of history and historical fiction writing, this memoir of both the factual and imagined past bring alive the murder of a young boy, Jeremy Guillory, by a confessed pedophile, alongside the author's own sexual abuse by her grandfather. It's not easy reading but it's exceptionally well written. Despite having an opposition to capital punishment that was fundamental to her decision to study law, her introduction to this death penalty case while working as intern led Marzano-Lesnevich to a difficult decision, that she actually wanted this particular man to die. Her personal experience and her obsession with this case interweave as a journey towards understanding.

    Above all, the book addresses the complexities inherent in evaluating our own histories and those of others. Truth is a slippery concept, our memories change, stories are modified, facts are chosen for the narrative we wish to present or to hide things we wish to forget. As the author says, where we start the story can affect how we feel about the ending. Ricky Langley admits to killing Jeremy, but does it matter if he didn't mean to? What if he was abused as a child himself? What if he abused Jeremy before killing him? What if he repeatedly asked for help, to be put away or killed before he harmed a child, and never received any help? What if he was psychotic at the time? Do these things change how we feel about his crime? In the law courts each side presents the best version for their case, it's the jury's job to decide which is more true. This book asks us whether this things matter and whether someone should die for the crimes they've committed. It asks whether all the extra bits matter. It demands a personal response: what would we do? What do we think? Fittingly, I had a layered and uncertain response to the complexity the author presents. Ricky Langley's crimes made me feel sick, I can only imagine the pain and confusion of Jeremy's experience. His death necessitates a just punishment. And yet, it would never have happened if Langley hadn't been brushed off by multiple authorities when he asked for help. I think Langley knew what he was doing was wrong, I think he would never have stopped unless someone stopped him, and I think someone should have done it before a child was horrifically murdered. Does he deserve to die for that? Maybe. I don't disagree with the death penalty on principle but I wouldn't want to be part of it myself, and that's more than hypocritical enough to be a problem. I leave the book with more questions than answers, about myself as much as anything else.

    While she has constructed her own narrative for the purposes of the book, Marzano-Lesnevich has tried to be as open as possible about the multitude of stories and sources that form the story as well as the limits of memory. In imagining the bits in-between she has given the reader a clearer 'what might have been' than lists of facts could achieve. It has an ancient precedent, Thucydides sought evidence for his work but also used imagined speeches in his

    , filling them with 'what was called for by each situation'. It allows us to think of the life and emotion involved, arguably as important as bare bones detail. It certainly leaves a lasting impression, and makes this one of the most thought provoking books i've read in a long time.

    ARC via Netgalley.

  • Book Riot Community
    May 17, 2017

    I mention this on the podcast several months ago, but I just want to reiterate how amazing this book is. Marzano-Lesnevich went to Louisiana to help work with prisoners on death row, and instead found herself questioning her opposition to the death penalty when she came across a particularly heinous crime. Her investigation into the case led to reopened memories of her own childhood trauma and forced her to face some painful truths. (This book is fascinating and beautifully written, but please b

    I mention this on the podcast several months ago, but I just want to reiterate how amazing this book is. Marzano-Lesnevich went to Louisiana to help work with prisoners on death row, and instead found herself questioning her opposition to the death penalty when she came across a particularly heinous crime. Her investigation into the case led to reopened memories of her own childhood trauma and forced her to face some painful truths. (This book is fascinating and beautifully written, but please be aware that there are some really brutal, possibly triggering things discussed in it as well.)

    Backlist bump: No bump, just advice to mark down After the Eclipse: A Mother’s Murder, a Daughter’s Search by Sarah Perry now, because WOW.

    Tune in to our weekly podcast dedicated to all things new books, All The Books:

  • Diane S ☔
    May 29, 2017

    4+. Powerful and emotionally raw, I have never read anything quite like this before. Pedophiles and the harm they cause, the lasting effects on their victims, whether in family or without, the subject makes this a difficult book to read. As a law student the author comes across a case involving the death of a six year old and the offender, at the time on death row, a young man named Ricky. Although she doesn't believe in the death penalty she is shocked to find how much she wants this man to die

    4+. Powerful and emotionally raw, I have never read anything quite like this before. Pedophiles and the harm they cause, the lasting effects on their victims, whether in family or without, the subject makes this a difficult book to read. As a law student the author comes across a case involving the death of a six year old and the offender, at the time on death row, a young man named Ricky. Although she doesn't believe in the death penalty she is shocked to find how much she wants this man to die. It triggers memories of the abuse within her own family and she sets out to understand​, both Ricky's case and her own family and what lived within the confines of supposed love.

    This story is so personal, we feel as if we are travelling with her as she makes her discoveries, witness her pain and anguish, feel with her as she tries to understand. The secrets held in her own family, passed down through generations, and her attempt to understand what makes someone sexually prey on others. The subject matter maybe a trigger for some, it is quite vividly presented, often looked at through the eyes of the child she was, absolutely devastating and heartbreaking.

    I do believe stories like these need to be told, not just as a catharis for the teller but as a way to bring these things out in the open, start a dialogue so others are not afraid to speak. Narrative nonfiction, mixed with a memoir and even some fiction writing, but it is done skillfully and honestly.

  • Elyse
    Jun 09, 2017

    "The Fact of a body: A Murder and a Memoir".....the title of this book becomes an 'acute awareness' of what this book is about - -the deeper we are pulled into this debut:

    This book is about a real murder that happened in the year 1992. A six year old child, Jeremy Guillory, was molested and murdered by Ricky Langley.

    This book is also a Memoir. We get a very personal -intimate -' private-as-private-is', up and close 'factual' and 'emotional' account from what author Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich

    "The Fact of a body: A Murder and a Memoir".....the title of this book becomes an 'acute awareness' of what this book is about - -the deeper we are pulled into this debut:

    This book is about a real murder that happened in the year 1992. A six year old child, Jeremy Guillory, was molested and murdered by Ricky Langley.

    This book is also a Memoir. We get a very personal -intimate -' private-as-private-is', up and close 'factual' and 'emotional' account from what author Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich shares with us about her life.

    While the 'facts' are being spelled out to us -- a crime investigation over a 10 year period - and 'specifics' about why, what, when, and how things were for Alexandria Mariano-Lesnevich....become much more than 'facts' to us.

    Reading this book SHAKES YOU - It RATTLES our insides.

    One of the most powerful-moments for me -- written beautiful- was 'very' personal.

    The author had just shared about 'coming out'. She was gay. She was in bed with her partner - in the beginnings of sex. Sex was going terrific- until it wasn't. Alexandria was going under, into a memory. I MUST HAVE READ THIS SECTION 4 or 5 times....

    a couple of pages.....I've HAD SIMILAR EXPERIENCES......( I'm not talking about sex - I'm not gay and I've never been molested)..... I'm talking about a memory taking you under: - it's a 'strong- stronger than strong' feeling.

    I haven't had that experience in years..... but I've never read ANYONE describe the experience like Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich did in this book:

    "Where does the mind go in these moments, while the body trembles? For me it is a white-hot slipstream blank-out, the nothingness I have no time and nowhere and no one. It use to be a feeling, a single concentrated excruciating feeling: ........."

    I'm NOT GOING TO SHARE ALEXANDRIA'S SPECIFIC MEMORY IN THIS REVIEW..... it's too personal....

    But......here is another 'part' of this past memory. An overwhelming memory can come on strong taking power away from whatever present moment a person finds themselves in:

    ....."But as the years have blotted the origin out - I am grateful- they have a blotted the sensations, too, as though the film reel of the memory has been played so many times it has gone torn and blotched".

    It's very hard to put this book down - it's raw - it pulls on your heartstrings - but after I finished reading it - I went back to the beginning and had questions about this excerpt:

    "As such, this is a book about what happened, yes, but it is also about what we do with what happened. It is about a murder, it is about my family, it is about other families whose lives were touched by the murder. But more than that, much more than that, it is about how we understand our lives, the past, and each other. To do this, we all make stories."

    "We all make stories"......hm??? So what stories were made up in this book? I don't know. It's this line .... "we all make stories"... that left me with an 'after-thought' about this book. I was definitely 'sucked in' from beginning to end....but I started to wonder if perhaps parts of this book were possibly overstated. I have no way of knowing but doubt began to enter my mind. I still was turning the pages heavily though!

    Very unique fusion style of story blending

    4 stars

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