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Niagara on the Lake, Ontario, Canada
My virtue is that I say what I think, my vice that what I think doesn't amount to much.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

The Fact Of A Body: A Murder and a Memoir

This book reads like a well written novel and it was only after I finished it that I discovered it is an actual memoir. Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich was a law student when she encounters the case of Ricky Langley, a pedophile who murdered a six year old boy and who was sitting on death row for the crime. The author is the daughter of two lawyers and was morally opposed to capital punishment until she was exposed to this case. Her reaction is extreme: she wants Ricky to die. We gradually learn that her own experience of child sexual abuse by her grandfather informs her feelings.
The stories of Alexandria and Ricky are two stories that entwine. While their lives appear very different at first we discover that both come from dysfunctional families who keep secrets.
Ricky is the product of a nightmarish background. His family was in an awful car accident before he was born. Two older siblings were killed and his mother was left severely disabled . The family never regains whatever equilibrium they might have once had. The incident is never spoken of and Ricky does not find out about it until he is half grown, although he must have had an inkling because he was haunted from an early age by a spectre with his dead brother's name. 
One day Alexandria finds out that she is actually one of a set of triplets, one of whom died in infancy and was never spoken of again. Her parents let the hospital look after the baby's remains and her actual burial place is unknown. Likewise, her parents and siblings want to put her grandfather's abusive behaviour behind them and do not wish to discuss it. Alexandria carries these secrets like a stone inside her.
For an extended period early in my career as a social worker I dealt with many cases of child sexual abuse. The stories of Alexandria and Ricky and their families ring absolutely true to me. The Fact Of A Body examines some very unpleasant truths and is not easy reading. It took me awhile to wade through this book and I know it will stay with me for a very long time.

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