The Fact of a Body

  • by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich
  • Narrated by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich
  • 10 hrs and 37 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

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. This groundbreaking, heart-stopping work, 10 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.


What the Critics Say

"This book is a marvel. 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 best-selling Everything I Never Told You)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Memoir of Molestation

Let me start by saying that the writing style of the author was so deliberately erudite and MFA-ish that it distracted me from the stories she had to tell. There was never a tree, but always a steady oak against the yellow palette of the autumn sky. Not a filing cabinet, a white metal filing cabinet with each dent lovingly deliniated. Exhausting to listen to after a while.

Further, the reader is treated to a specific example of each feeling--a buzzing in my head, pressure in my chest, my limbs tingled--to such an extent--seemed like almost every page--that I started to get fed up and long for a simple declarative, "I felt," but it was not to be. I think people who like Elizabeth Gilbert's writing will find this memoir right in the sweet spot, but I found it hard to decide how I felt with all the overly descriptive, wordy explanations of the author's feelings. It read to me that authenticity was substituted for the display of a very expensive education (name drop: Harvard).

There's another rule that someone should add to MFA curriculums that would have helped me greatly with this one: leave room for the reader.
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- Margaret

Where does a story begin?

Marzano-Lesnevich does a fine job of laying bare her own childhood abuse in this emotionally powerful memoir. Assigned to assist in the defense of a pedophile who murdered a 6 yr.old boy, Marzano-Lesnevich recounts her experience of working as a lawyer on a case that was prosecuted in the public eye, weighted against her own story of childhood sexual abuse. During the process, the lawyer's pursuit of facts collides with her own recollections of abuse and triggers an urgent need to look beyond what is known. From a life-long search for "Why?" she eloquently and profoundly points out that how you begin the story, the *casual chain,* decides the meaning of the story. But does it change the facts?

Imagine the weight the victim of abuse might take upon themselves when years later they discover their abuser was also once the victim: Where and How you begin the story. Does it begin with the crash, the death of a triplet, the abuse of a little boy that would grow up and molest; the boy who grew up fearing his deviant urges? This is the point, when our hearts and brains slam against each other in total conflict... "hate the sin, love the sinner..." HOW? Beyond solution, here is where we look to the law to make what sense, if any, what justice, what precautions, what reparations and realize our best efforts are often grossly lacking.

The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir is not just a memoir, it's a piece of the author. Ambitious, somber, heartbreaking, brave. I respect the bravery it must have taken for Marzano-Lesnevich to tell her story. Her self-examination is painful to read. The times she struggles to love the grandfather that cared for her, then betrayed her, are gut-wrenching. Hearing that little girl try to make sense of such betrayal will affect the reader, so I have to warn those who might be working on their own issues, this may not yet be the book for you to read. Eventually, Marzano-Lesnevich's courage and triumph might be a source of support or encouragement.

It's obvious for the reader to have compassion for the child victims -- both the young Alexandria, who now stands before the reader as an interning lawyer, and 6-year-old Jeremy, who was murdered. It's unfathomable that by the end, you might look at that repulsive old *Grandpa* that terrorized his granddaughters and see him long ago as the little defenseless boy being brutally molested himself; or wonder how mental illness should be weighed in such a case.

What comes across is a very intellectual novel, almost a given with the author's scholastic achievements. Between the words, I felt Marzano-Lesnevich intellectualizing, sometimes struggling to stay in her head with a story that was experienced on a cellular level. The book is strongest when the moments let the reader feel, rather than having the author micro-manage our emotions with an avalanche of descriptors. When your mind has to read the many descriptors the authors lose control of your own response. I think had Marzano-Lesnevich trusted her readers a little more, reading could have been experienced --
as far as that's possible in such matters. The erudition became a buffer and a hindrance, something Audible reviewer Magaret points out very well. But, I completely admire Marzano-Lesnevich's talent and choices and share only my impressions without judgment.

So much of Marzano-Lesnevich's memoir is emotionally experienced during multiple lives at multiple times that it can be difficult to stay with the author. She is a child, a victim, a lover, a lawyer, a detective, an observer in different lives, and though she transitions well between these roles, you need to stay very clear headed -- hard to do when you are experiencing so much of her journey with your heart. Beautifully written, graciously told, difficult subject matter.
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- Mel

Book Details

  • Release Date: 05-16-2017
  • Publisher: Macmillan Audio