Happy Friday! Who else is ready for the weekend?
I’m excited to bring a new series of posts to you today in the form of mini reviews! These will include two to three books that are within the same genre or run along similar veins, and briefly sum up my thoughts on each book in just a short paragraph. It’s likely these will tend to be nonfiction books, but there may be some fiction sprinkled in as well. I hope to post at least one set of mini reviews each month, but it will just depend on how busy life is at the time and how many books I wind up reading.
Today I’ll be reviewing a couple of memoirs: Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body, by Roxane Gay; and The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich. I listened to both of these on audiobook a few months back and was struck by the similarities despite the difference in their tone and content. Ready to see the reviews?
Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay
Published by HarperAudio on June 13, 2017
Genre(s): nonfiction, memoir
Format & Length: audiobook, 5:57:00
Find on Goodreads
From the bestselling author of Bad Feminist: a searingly honest memoir of food, weight, self-image, and learning how to feed your hunger while taking care of yourself
“I ate and ate and ate in the hopes that if I made myself big, my body would be safe. I buried the girl I was because she ran into all kinds of trouble. I tried to erase every memory of her, but she is still there, somewhere. . . . I was trapped in my body, one that I barely recognized or understood, but at least I was safe.”
In her phenomenally popular essays and long-running Tumblr blog, Roxane Gay has written with intimacy and sensitivity about food and body, using her own emotional and psychological struggles as a means of exploring our shared anxieties over pleasure, consumption, appearance, and health. As a woman who describes her own body as “wildly undisciplined,” Roxane understands the tension between desire and denial, between self-comfort and self-care. In Hunger, she explores her own past—including the devastating act of violence that acted as a turning point in her young life—and brings readers along on her journey to understand and ultimately save herself.
With the bracing candor, vulnerability, and power that have made her one of the most admired writers of her generation, Roxane explores what it means to learn to take care of yourself: how to feed your hungers for delicious and satisfying food, a smaller and safer body, and a body that can love and be loved—in a time when the bigger you are, the smaller your world becomes.
Brutally raw, honest, and powerful, I found Hunger to be utterly relatable. Gay lays out the story of her life through the lens of how it affected her body. While my life experience is wildly different from hers, I still found so many instances that I could understand and relate to, several times shouting, “Yes! That’s so true!” while listening to this book. The fact that it’s narrated by the author only added to its authenticity. Memoirs don’t often sit well with me, but I found Hunger to be so well written and engaging that this really worked for me.
The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich
Published by Macmillan Audio on May 16, 2017
Genre(s): nonfiction, memoir, true crime
Format & Length: audiobook, 10:37:00
Find on Goodreads
Before Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich begins a summer job 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.
But another surprise awaits: She wasn’t the only one who saw her life in Ricky’s.
An intellectual and emotional thriller that is also a different kind of murder mystery, THE FACT OF A BODY is a book not only about how the story of one crime was constructed―but about how we grapple with our own personal histories. Along the way it tackles questions about the nature of forgiveness, and if a single narrative can ever really contain something as definitive as the truth. This groundbreaking, heart-stopping work, ten years in the making, shows how the law is more personal than we would like to believe―and the truth more complicated, and powerful, than we could ever imagine.
The Fact of a Body follows parallel stories of the author’s life and that of a man who was convicted of murder back in the early nineties. Each story is powerful in its own right and I applaud her bravery in sharing her own story, but the breaks between the two were somewhat disjointed and took away some of that power for me. This audiobook was also narrated by the author, and she did an admirable job. My favorite aspect, though, was the importance placed on how the telling of a story changes it and the fact that memories are slippery and can be written over – a concept which I found to be fascinating.
So, there you have my first set of mini reviews! Did you read these books, and if so, did you like them? Why or why not? I’d love to hear your thoughts!