Tag Archives: Lucky by Alice Sebold

The Case of Alice Sebold

I’ve been dwelling on the case of Alice Sebold (author of the beautiful novel The Lovely Bones) and the trial of her accused rapist. I wrote about her memoir Lucky here: [P]lucky to Survive The book was structured in essentially two parts. Part one is about Sebold’s rape as a college sophomore and her resulting trauma. Part two is about the rape trial. When I wrote my earlier post I latched onto the opening rape scene because I was reading memoirs with the eye of a writer who wanted to write a memoir. I ignored the rest of the book. A reason, though, was that I felt confused by the book and also found the trial section icky, but I failed to analyze it enough.

Now, it turns out, the man she had identified as her rapist is innocent. Talk about gobsmacked. Anthony Broadwater, the man who went to prison and has now been exonerated, seems to have suffered because he was a black man in the wrong place at the wrong time. You can read about Sebold’s apology here: Alice Sebold Apologizes

I have some thoughts about this matter. My heart goes out to Anthony Broadwater for the ruination of his life and his reputation. I can’t even imagine what his life has been like or how it felt every day knowing he didn’t deserve what was happening. In articles, he sounds like a very balanced, kind man. Can you even imagine what he went through all this time? It seems just BEYOND.

Another aspect is that a lot of writers and others have been quick to condemn Sebold.  But remember she went through a horrific and terrorizing experience where she thought she would die and was never given proper support afterward. She was young and the rape must have damaged her emotionally. Then she had only the police and prosecutor to rely on. They were hell-bent on getting a conviction and manipulated the situation. She must have been like putty for their purposes.

To me, this is one of those horrific tragedies that happen in life where so many issues converge. There are innocents, like Broadwater, and bad actors, like the prosecution. Then there is Sebold, a victim of a horrible tragedy herself. Is she guilty of a travesty against Broadwater? Or is she being victimized all over again by people who were quick to denounce her?

When Sebold saw Broadwater on the street and thought he was the rapist, she was operating under a problem that everyone in the world operates under. Cross-racial identification is known to be very problematic. At least, we know that today. That wasn’t the case in 1982. I’m not sure how to solve this, but it needs solving so that we can trust identification of criminals. I do understand the phenomenon, though. We see the details that identify individuals more clearly in people we are most used to seeing. So if we come from a white family, we are best at identifying white individuals, etc.  I think we can all get better at this, but it takes being around people of all races! So is Sebold responsible for pointing out the wrong man or a victim of a natural phenomenon? Both?

Ugh, I hate situations like this. It’s so much easier when there are clear bad guys and good guys. Please help me organize my thoughts on this matter. What do you think?

What is clear to me is that a grave injustice was done to Anthony Broadwater. And all of us who read Sebold’s memoir were made complicit in it.


I made my first mini junk journal last week. The video is a minute and a half and shows all the pages inside the journal, if you’re interested. The project was to put my “stamp” of authenticity on it. I feel like I did that.



I will leave you with Perry to start your week. By the way, you know what my mother said the other day? That Perry looks like a rat!!! What kind of Grandma says that?! Sigh. More like a ferret or possum? In the following 6 second video, Perry learns that in the “Mouse for Cats” video game when he catches a mouse it squeaks.

NOW you will have a good week!


Filed under #amreading, #writerlife, #writerslife, #writingcommunity, Book Review, Memoir, Writing

[P]lucky to Survive

I remember reading Alice Sebold’s novel The Lovely Bones and thinking it was a spectacular book, but that the writer must have something very dark inside her to write it. It wasn’t a judgment, but an exploratory and rather sad thought on my part.

When I read Sebold’s memoir, I learned where that darkness originated. Lucky is the story of the tragedy that happened to her: she was raped while a freshman at college. After the rape, a police officer told Sebold about another girl who had been killed after her rape, and that Sebold was lucky. Imagine how that word lucky must have sounded to her!

The book starts right off with the rape. This hooks the reader . . . swiftly and absolutely. The rest of the book describes how this experience affected her life, as well as how the rapist was eventually captured and tried. The book has all the “high drama” elements: inadequate responses of family and friends, the emotional terrain, and the legal process.

It’s hard to isolate what I learned from this book, but I’ll go with how it put me in Sebold’s life so that I felt as I were experiencing all that she had experienced. She wasn’t lucky at all, but she was very plucky, both her immediate response to the rape and the aftermath were plucky.

I also learned something about book structure. As a nonfiction writer, I see that it can be very powerful to begin a book with the most intense scene. In this case, everything else that happens in the book is because the protagonist was raped, so it all springs from that initial event. It seems as if the book can only be structured this way, but in lesser hands, I can imagine that the writer might think that putting the rape scene first would be:

  1. “too much” (grandstanding)
  2. wasting the best scene at the beginning (how can the rest of the book hold up after the bar is set that high?)
  3. not really the beginning (after all, the fact that Sebold was still a virgin–and why–adds to the story, right?)

These are all useless worries. The rape belongs at the beginning, and because it is at the beginning, it lurks underneath every scene after it. That makes the whole book that much more powerful!


Filed under Book Review, Books, Creative Nonfiction, Essay, Memoir, Nonfiction, Research and prep for writing, Writing