I bought The Fact of a Body after hearing about it on the Literary Disco podcast*. My plan had been to give it my dad for Christmas. Once it arrived, I became so intrigued, I ended up keeping it for myself.
I’ll start by saying that many researchers who write non-fiction are not great writers. That is not the case with Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich. I was immediately drawn in and found myself wanting to underline creative imagery or interesting turn of phrase again and again. When has that ever happened reading non-fiction?
Subtitled A Murder and a Memoir, Marzano alternates between the story of Ricky Langley, a confessed pedophile and murderer of a 6 year old boy and whose death-row conviction becomes the focus of a civil liberties organization, and her own.
Facts you learn early on – so these aren’t spoilers – are that Ricky Langley was conceived while his mother was in a full body cast (yep, wrap your mind around those mechanics) and doctors strongly urged his parents to abort when they discovered the pregnancy. She had been on a variety of strong medications and had also been exposed to a large quantity of radiation from x-rays. But they refused.
You also learn that Alexandria was molested by her grandfather as a child, with varying degrees of acknowledgement through the years by her parents, and so she wrestles between a firm stance against the death penalty and a desire to see justice served.
This is a fascinating read made all the better by how well it is written. With layers upon layers to feed any book groups discussion, I highly recommend for anyone who likes true crime, literary fiction, or is interested in topics like justice and the death penalty. I’m extremely grateful to Literary Disco for introducing me.
*While they don’t publish often, this is one of the more reliable literary podcasts out there if you are a literary fiction snob – and that tends to describe me well.
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