Before Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich begins an internship 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.
[Note: Although Marzano-Lesnevich now identifies as non-binary, I am using the official synopsis of the book as written on their website.]
Although neither of us went into this book expecting a jolly-good-times read, we were both a bit taken off-guard by the intensity of the subject matter. The book is beautifully and carefully written, and the parallels and connections between Marzano-Lesnevich’s own lived experience and the trajectory of Ricky Langley’s life are artfully drawn. Like many great true crime novels, The Fact of a Body raises more questions than it answers, with the added weight of the author’s personal connection hanging onto the facts they ask us to consider. But if you can stand to carry this novel’s heavy subject matter with you, it makes for an impactful and worthy read.
Discussion questions below the cut!