The memoir describes her experiences of being raped and how the experience shaped the rest of her life. Sebold was finishing her freshman year at Syracuse University when she was attacked, beaten, and raped while walking home through a park off campus in the early morning hours of May 8. She reported the crime to the police, who remarked that a young woman had once been murdered in the same location. Thus, they told her, she was "lucky. After months of no leads by the police, Sebold spotted her rapist while walking down the sidewalk. He smirked at her and remarked that he knew her "from somewhere" before continuing on.

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In five words, swollen with portentousness, it makes a lot of promises. An author needs to have a certain amount of guts to start a book like that. Alice Sebold has them and more. All the This is what I remember. All the words that follow are testament to this; every page is an act of courage. The first thing that jumps out at you, even before that opening line, is the title: Lucky.

Is that supposed to be ironic? Blackly humorous? Or, somehow, the truth? Sebold answers that question immediately, with a brief, lyrical prologue: In the tunnel where I was raped, a tunnel that was once an underground entry to an amphitheater, a place where actors burst forth from underneath the seats of a crowd, a girl had been murdered and dismembered. I was told this by the police. In comparison, they said, I was lucky But at the time, I felt I had more in common with the dead girl than I did with the large, beefy police officers or my stunned freshman-year girlfriends.

The dead girl and I had been in the same low place During the rape my eye caught something among the leaves and glass. A pink hair tie. When I heard about the dead girl, I could imagine her pleading as I had, and wondered when her hair had been pulled loose from her hair tie I will always think of her when I think of the pink hair tie. I will think of a girl in the last moments of her life. Since Lucky was published back in , Alice Sebold has gone on to great fame and fortune as the author of The Lovely Bones.

That novel was on the New York Times bestseller list for over a year. As with any pop cultural phenomenon, however, there was an inevitable backlash. Eight years and a subpar film later, it has become easy to pretend that we were never moved. She captures the small details that can raise the hair on the back of your neck. And in every sentence you see the catharsis. I am not a huge fan of memoirs. Rather, it smacks of calculation. A way to get Harper Collins to give your rough draft a look-see.

What should I do? Those thoughts - admittedly cynical - never slipped into my mind while reading Lucky. It was therapy. Sebold writes nakedly about an intensely private violation in cringing detail. You can almost see her dissociating in front of you, allowing her to write with a kind of reportorial detachment.

The opening pages are unforgettable, as Sebold graphically and unflinchingly describes her sexual assault. At times her writing is clinical, at times, oddly poetic.

She alternates smoothly between short, simple, punchy sentences, and flighty, novelistic turns-of-phrase. For instance, during the rape, she wrenchingly describes being forced to give oral sex. Here, the prose is dry, workmanlike, almost like the transcript of a court proceeding: just the facts, as they happened.

To have veered away from objectivity might have been unbearable. Then, smoothly, Sebold will shift styles, such as the way she describes how she talked to her rapist: "I forgive you," I said. I said what I had to. I would die by pieces to save myself from real death. The beginning of Lucky is like a punch in the gut. Its honesty and power leaves you drained. You will read it in one gulp of air, unable to stop to breathe.

Of course, that tension cannot be maintained. Nor should it. She struggles with shame, alienation, and the eventual trial of her rapist. Adult rape is a hard crime to classify. Yet in a very real way, rape is as serious as murder. This is why I read Lucky. The first girlfriend I ever had in college was raped at a frat house.

We were both freshmen, a few months into our first semester, still in that sheltered bubble of youth, where bad things only happen to strangers. She went out with friends, I made the decision to stay in and study.

Thus, for me, the first lesson of college: the choices you make can be the choices you cannot unmake. I heard the news, of course, but she was busy with those things you hope you never know. The only thing I can compare it to is my dog, Henry, who I rescued from a shelter; when I first got him, whenever I raised my voice, he got that same slinking, terrified look, as though waiting for his next beating.

It would be insulting to think my imaginative powers could conjure a fraction of her reality, though it has never stopped me from trying. So when I picked up this book, long after my freshman year had passed, I did so with purpose. I wanted to read this for her.


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Her accounts of the event became the topic of her memoir, Lucky. The daughter of two professor parents, Sebold grew up in a family ruled by dysfunction. Her mom, Jane, was an alcoholic, who endured serious bouts of panic and stress, frequently leaving Sebold and her older sister Mary to care for her. After high school, Sebold, in a effort to distance herself from her family, registered at Syracuse University in upstate New York in the autumn of But during her first year in the institution, Sebold endured a horrible event that will alter her life. While walking back to her dorm one evening, she was viciously assaulted and raped in a tunnel. Sebold eventually made it back to her room where buddies took her to the hospital.


Lucky: A Memoir






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