Published by
Flatiron Books (May 2017)
Current material
Final PDF / epub


A Murder and a Memoir

by Marzano-Lesnevich, Alexandria

When Alexandria started Harvard Law School, she had no idea how her life would be dramatically altered. After taking a summer internship at a small law firm in Louisiana and working on the murder and death penalty retrial of convicted child molester Ricky Langley, Alexandria begins to see his life and circumstances mirrored in her own. As she digs deeper into Ricky's past, pouring over thousands of pages of court transcripts to tell his story, she finds herself thrust into the narrative as she begins identifying with the killer through their mutually abusive childhoods. In taking on Ricky, she is forced to face her own story, and rationalize the path that led her to a Harvard education, while defending the one that led Ricky Langley to a life of violent crime. But in investigating his case, she realizes that she is not alone in interpreting the crime through her own life. The judge, the jury foreman, even the victim's mother and the defense attorney—all saw the crime through their own lens. All saw their lives in his. The murder trial that took place was not just about Ricky's past, but about the pasts of everyone touched by the crime. In Alexandria's hands, THE FACT OF A BODY becomes a book not only about how the story of one crime was constructed—but about how we understand our lives, our families, and each other, and how we all make stories.

This book is groundbreaking in its approach to showing how law is personal and composed of individual stories, and the attention Alexandria has received for the book is commensurate with its ambition. Alexandria is a 2014 National Endowment for the Arts fellow in creative writing, an award given for her work on THE FACT OF A BODY. Other honors in support of this book include a Rona Jaffe Award, a scholarship to the Bread Loaf Writer's Conference, as well as fellowships to the MacDowell Colony, Millay Colony for the Arts, Blue Mountain Center and Yaddo. Her essays and short fiction have appeared in The New York Times, Oxford American, Salon, and the anthology TRUE CRIME. She has a JD from Harvard, an MFA from Emerson and a BA from Columbia University. Alexandria currently lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she teaches memoir writing at Grub Street and teaches graduate public policy students at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.

Available rights (1)

Language Territory Type Vendor Status
German World All

Christian Dittus

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The Fact of a Body is a remarkable act of witness, an anatomy of silence and the violence it abets, a book of both public and private accountings. Rejecting the false comfort of certainty, it confronts the inadequacy of all our tools for fathoming not just unforgivable crimes, but the baffling, human grace that can forgive them. This is a profound and riveting book. —Garth Greenwell

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UK: Macmillan (Georgina Morley); Taiwan: Knowledge Bank;

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Compulsive, eloquent, and profoundly troubling. One of those rare books which embrace the genuine complexity of real life. -- Mark Haddon, bestselling author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and The Pier Falls

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The Fact of a Body is excellent. So gripping and fascinating. -- Sophie Hannah, author of Woman With a Secret

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utterly remarkable (...) It isn't just that the writing can be beautiful (the author has a very nice way with cemeteries, which is just as well because she visits enough of them), it isn't just her coruscating honesty, it is that she understands how very partial the stories we tell ourselves are: the story of themselves that parents choose to tell their children as much as the stories that defence and prosecuting counsels create about events and people. (...) A word here on Marzano-Lesnevich's achievement. What is heroically accomplished in this book for the reader is also the most terrible betrayal of the family. The betrayal is itself heroic. The parents (to whom the book is dedicated) are alive and very googleable, their very human self-deceits, with their awful results, are now to be read about by many thousands of others. Perhaps, one may hope, they can achieve the magnanimity of Lorelei Guillory, Jeremy's mother, in that Louisiana courtroom.

Review: The Times (London)

The Fact of a Body is unlike any murder story I've ever read, a masterpiece of both reportage and memoir, a book that could only be written by an author with Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich's staggering gifts: a relentless reporter with a law degree from Harvard, a poet's understanding of the cadence of a line, and a novelist's gift for empathy. Walter Benjamin famously said that all great works of art either dissolve a genre or invent one. This book does both, and its greatness is undeniable. —Justin St. Germain

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France: Sonatine; Spain: Libros del Asteroide

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Winner of the Prix du Livre étranger 2019 France Inter / Le Journal du Dimanche

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Longlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger Award

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Greece: Enalios

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Korea: ChaekSeSang

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Turkey: Ithaki

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Winner of the Lambda Award for THE FACT OF A BODY in "Lesbian Memoir/Biography".

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NL: Hollands Diep (Robert Ammerlaan)

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haunting ... Marzano-Lesnevich excels at painting an atmospheric portrait: a staircase becomes an ominous symbol, and a house's peeling paint looks like “a skin worn by a creature who lurked underneath.” The dual narratives are infinitely layered, as Marzano-Lesnevich allows for each person's motivations and burdens to unspool through the pages. Her writing is remarkably evocative and taut with suspense, with a level of nuance that sets this effort apart from other true crime accounts. (starred review)

Review: Publishers Weekly

The writing is superb and gripping and never heavy-handed on the legal jargon, creating a moving must-have for any collection. (starred review)

Review: School Library Journal

A fascinating hybrid of true crime and memoir, The Fact of a Body is intricately constructed, emotionally raw, and unflinching. Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich has written a gripping meditation on sexual abuse, justice, and the limits of empathy. -- Tom Perrotta

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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. (starred review)

Review: Booklist

An accomplished literary debut weaves memoir and true-crime investigation A powerful evocation of the raw pain of emotional scars.

Review: Kirkus Reviews

This book is a marvel. With unflinching precision and immense compassion, Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich peels apart both a murder case and her own experience to reveal how we try to make sense of the past. 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

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