If you’ve been getting excited about the previews to Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones, or if you’ve read the amazing novel, you might be interested in Sebold’s own journey toward finding justice for her rapist. In Lucky, the author describes her own brutal rape in the fall of 1980, during her first semester at Syracuse University.
A truly courageous tale of survival and strength, Lucky depicts what we now know to be an unusual rape case—unusual not because of Sebold’s ordeal, but because of both her survival, success in life, and prosecution and conviction of her attacker. As Sebold shares in the work—and as we’ve witnessed ourselves with reports of thousands of rape kits simply shelved and left uninvestigated all across the country—it’s pretty damn hard to get a rapist convicted; many of us wonder why the hell this is—the reasons are explained in Sebold’s memoir.
When Sebold sees her rapist months after the attack, she reports it and begins a slow and arduous journey toward prosecution. The “tricks of the trade” a rapist and his defense team are allowed to use—including witness intimidation, choosing friends to stand along in police line-ups, and a variety of other tactics—were shocking to read about.
Lucky isn’t a scene from Law and Order: SUV where Benson, Stabler and co. catch the bad guy and lock him up forever after roughing him up a bit; it’s the depiction of a real American rape and its horrifying aftermath. Gone, too, are the sensitivity and understanding given to the victim from the detectives; in its place is misplaced vindictiveness, disbelief, skepticism, and plenty of other outrageous reactions—thankfully, in the end, replaced with belief and solidarity.
Of course, it’s not just about the rape—it’s also about Sebold’s incredible perseverance, her resilience; how she finds sardonic humor in life even after her attack, how she handles it so much better than those around her, how she sadly must experience the before-and-after effects of being labeled a rape victim.
The title of the book comes from what police told Sebold following her attack—that she was lucky to be alive, as a woman had been raped and killed in the same tunnel where she had been attacked not long before. Of course, Sebold isn’t lucky—a fact that the police may have recognized seeing as she was raped, for God’s sake—but she is indeed lucky at the same time, both to be alive as well as to have helped put her rapist behind bars.