Lucky by Alice Sebold

30 Nov



256 pages
Published September 22nd 2009 by Scribner (first published September 16th 2002)
ISBN 0684857820 (ISBN13: 9780684857824)
rating: 3.5/5 stars
In a memoir hailed for its searing candor and wit, Alice Sebold reveals how her life was utterly transformed when, as an eighteen-year-old college freshman, she was brutally raped and beaten in a park near campus. What propels this chronicle of her recovery is Sebold’s indomitable spirit-as she struggles for understanding (“After telling the hard facts to anyone, from lover to friend, I have changed in their eyes”); as her dazed family and friends sometimes bungle their efforts to provide comfort and support; and as, ultimately, she triumphs, managing through grit and coincidence to help secure her attacker’s arrest and conviction. In a narrative by turns disturbing, thrilling, and inspiring, Alice Sebold illuminates the experience of trauma victims even as she imparts wisdom profoundly hard-won: “You save yourself or you remain unsaved.”

A harrowing tale, indeed. “It is not just forcible intercourse; rape means to inhabit and destroy everything” (p.123). No wonder it had taken so long for Alice to come to terms with it. Such brutal destruction of everything one knew and was could not be overcome quickly or easily. I found I had to stop reading at intervals to recover my equanimity.The reactions of the people surrounding her I found fascinating. What does one say to the victim? Certainly not “I guess this will make you less inhibited about sex now, huh?” (p.77). You’d think a therapist could have done better than that.

I think I’d like to read The Lovely Bones again having read this memoir. I didn’t give it much of a review or rating when I read it & I wonder if I would feel any different on a second reading. Terry Gross asks an interesting question at the end of Lucky:

TG: I got the impression that the kind of moment-by-moment description of the brutality that’s in your memoir is something you felt didn’t belong in this new novel, in the description of the brutality that this fourteen-year-old face.

AS: Yeah. I mean, the funny thing is that I did write the beginning of The Lovely Bonesbefore I wrote my memoir, so the violent crime that occurs in Susie‘s life happened, in terms of writing about it, before a description of my rape was written by me later. I think to separate the two stories, to make sure that Susie was not doing any of my work for me when I returned to the novel, I stopped to write Lucky. And one of the things that was very important for me to do was to get all the facts of my case down, so they had been written, they existed whole in a whole other book, and I could go back to Susie and she could lead me where she wanted to take me and tell me her story in the way she wanted to tell it, as opposed to me feeling perhaps that I needed to really tell the real deal about every detail of rape and violence. I did that in the memoir as opposed to the novel because I wanted my characters to rule the novel, not some sort of want to talk about rape and show rape to readers.

I thought this memoir was well-written and gripping, and despite the distressing content it was worth the effort

Happy Reading!

~Ana @SoManyBooksSoLittleTime~


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