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Enormously visceral, emotionally gripping, and imbued with the belief that justice is possible even after the most horrific of crimes, Alice Sebold's compelling memoir of her rape at the age of eighteen is a story that takes hold of you and won't let go.
Sebold fulfills a promise that she made to herself in the very tunnel where she was raped: someday she would write a book about her experience. With Lucky she delivers on that promise with mordant wit and an eye for life's absurdities, as she describes what she was like both as a young girl before the rape and how that rape changed but did not sink the woman she later became.
It is Alice's indomitable spirit that we come to know in these pages. The same young woman who sets her sights on becoming an Ethel Merman-style diva one day (despite her braces, bad complexion, and extra weight) encounters what is still thought of today as the crime from which no woman can ever really recover. In an account that is at once heartrending and hilarious, we see Alice's spirit prevail as she struggles to have a normal college experience in the aftermath of this harrowing, life-changing event.
No less gripping is the almost unbelievable role that coincidence plays in the unfolding of Sebold's narrative. Her case, placed in the inactive file, is miraculously opened again six months later when she sees her rapist on the street. This begins the long road to what dominates these pages: the struggle for triumph and understanding -- in the courtroom and outside in the world.
Lucky is, quite simply, a real-life thriller. In its literary style and narrative tension we never lose sight of why this life story is worth reading. At the end we are left standing in the wake of devastating violence, and, like the writer, we have come to know what it means to survive.
Publishers Weekly Review
© Publishers Weekly
Raw and engrossing writing. I could not put this autobiography down. Must read!
Lucky by Alice Sebold was published in 1999 and has hundreds of editorial and reader reviews. It is a seminal memoir on the subject of rape, giving permission to other victims to break their silence. The book is so important, it merits opinion eleven years later.
The book begins with the terrifying experience of the author being raped. It’s graphic, it’s real, and it hurts to read. Alice was able to tell the events in a clear voice that could have gotten lost in the chaos of the long ordeal. A memoir about rape is a writing nightmare, yet Sebold creates enough connection between author and reader to generate compassion for the victim and rage at the perpetrator. Then, he apologized!
Alice had few friends to run to, and relied on acquaintances and strangers to help her in the aftermath, which is ugly, painful, and infinite. Within the story, the reader will find exactly how a rape victims feels: “damaged goods, ruined.” Or from a different planet.
Sebold examines her family dynamics as she tries to recover. It appears that each member of her family lives on a different planet, revolving around each other but never really making contact. Her mother has anxiety; her father is isolated; her sister is perfect. This sets Alice up for taking the journey alone while trying to maintain her sanity, a grade point average, and the court proceedings.
The transcripts of the court proceedings are long and arduous. One can only imagine what it must have been like for Alice to be the witness in her rape trial, being put on the spot, with soiled underwear sworn into evidence. You’ll find clever comments by Sebold that help the reader grasp intonations of sarcasm and scorn from the perpetrator’s attorneys. Sebold was strong enough to survive when others would have folded.
Alice admitted to a common result of sexual violence, which is using drugs to escape. She discovered that she has post-traumatic stress disorder. She does not sugar-coat the violence that is rape, the intimidation that is the criminal justice system, or the ironies of life that is stranger than any fiction.
Review completed by Lynn C. Tolson, author of Beyond the Tears: A True Survivor's Story
The story is much better than the writing. It could be choppy and repetitive and flabby.