Alice Sebold’s Lucky sets the tone of the book with the very first paragraph: “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 story by the police. In comparison, they said, I was lucky.”
These opening lines are reflective of the rest of Sebold’s memoir – an honest, searing account of the violent sexual assault that changed her life and her journey to rebuild it afterwards. Sebold was brutally raped and beaten when she was 18 years old, on her way home from a college party. She writes about the attack in chilling detail as well as its aftermath. From family and friends that didn’t quite know how to comfort her to the difficulties she had in forming nurturing sexual relationships as she tried to live a “regular life”, Lucky is no-holds-barred and sensitive telling of surviving trauma.
It’s not just vulnerability that Sebold displays by letting readers into the tumultuous workings of her mind after the rape, but also a dizzying amount of grit. It’s a grit that is most visible as she undergoes the excruciating ordeal of securing a conviction against her attacker. She showcases firsthand how criminal justice systems are set up to disbelieve, agonise and intimidate survivors of sexual assault.
Sebold is best-known for her immensely successful novel The Lovely Bones, a stunning work in its own right but it is with her memoir that she leaves the greatest mark.
“The quiet achievement of Sebold’s memoir of her rape as a college freshman is that she handles her subject with the integrity of a journalist and the care of a survivor.” said Newsday about the book.
Published in 1999.