A blending of memoir and true-crime journalism. In 2003, working as a summer intern at a Louisiana law firm that defends clients sentenced to death, the author discovered the case of a child’s murder by a confessed pedophile. Passionately opposed to capital punishment, she realized that she wanted this client to die. That response—unsettling and unexpected—incited an interest in the case that became nothing less than an obsession.
As a law student, Marzano-Lesnevich took pride in her staunch opposition to the death penalty — until she encountered the case of Ricky Langley, a child molester and murderer. Watching the tape of Langley’s confession, she was shocked to find she wanted him to die. But as she investigated his crimes, she discovered his story had strange parallels to her own: a history of abuse, a dead sibling, haunted and broken parents. In an offbeat narrative, she unspools their stories together, resulting in a memoir/true-crime hybrid that stands up to the best of either genre, and will linger in your mind long after the last page.
...surprising, suspenseful, and moving ... The subject matter is difficult, and the author doesn’t shy away from graphic descriptions, but readers are rewarded with a book that defies both its genres, turning into something wholly different and memorable.
The Fact of a Body makes for an uncomfortable read. That’s not a disparagement. The book, a mashup of genres, flings readers into a pit of ominous subject matter and ethical uncertainty ... What sets this book apart from most true crime is that it plays out against the backdrop of the author’s memories of her own childhood trauma ... She writes about her childhood in dream-stippled prose, at once sharp with beauty and lush with horror ... Marzano-Lesnevich writes, 'I have been driven all along by the belief that there is a knot at the heart of the collision between me and Ricky that will help me make sense of what will never be resolved.' No one who reads The Fact of a Body could doubt the author’s sincerity of purpose. But I’m not sure that knot helps us make sense of anything. In the end, her searching, searing account of her own story is far more moving, and far more credible, than her pastiche of the decades-old crime.