I don’t remember the first time I saw the cover of Lucky (published in 1999), but when I did I know I put it in the same camp as The Lovely Bones. I thought it was another piece of fiction, and after the emotional scars left by The Lovely Bones, I needed a break from Alice Sebold, the same way you often need a break after reading Gillian Flynn. Humans can get too scary.
Then, when I was in Georgetown last September and visited The Lantern, I saw Lucky again and read the back. Memoir? Rape? I didn’t know that. Wow. Yes. I need to know this story.
Alice was a college freshman at Syracuse when a nighttime walk near campus resulted in a violent rape. Very violent. Thankfully, her aggressor was dumb enough to let her see his face, to talk to her, to leave DNA evidence on her body. For this reason alone, one might call her lucky. She was also lucky enough to run in to her rapist a year later on the street, and then lucky enough to aid in his arrest and subsequent conviction. That’s right. She was lucky enough to see her rapist be hauled off to Attica.
While the details of her story comfort those of us who need to see justice done, nothing about her story is lucky. She was raped. She was a young girl – a virgin, no less – physically and emotionally ripped to shreds. Alice carried her scars into all of her relationships, familial and otherwise. Because while her stitches healed and the rapist got 25 years, she is not, nor will she ever be, the same.
But how could she be? Though it seems like a flawed correlation to compare bad boyfriend decisions to being brutally raped by a stranger in a park at night, because those are too very different types of scars, they are scars nonetheless. We carry scars of all sorts into our relationships and subconsciously apply our fears and presumptions to innocent people. I know my own husband has been the recipient of anger I’ve had buried for more than 20 years. Unfair? Yes. Uncommon? Nope. That type of cataloguing is part of our humanity. It’s part of what fuels self-preservation.
Be warned. If you read this book, details of the attack are not watered down.