A stunningly crafted and unsparing account of the author’s rape as a college freshman and what it took to win her case in court.
In 1981, Sebold was brutally raped on her college campus, at Syracuse University. Sebold, a New York Times Magazinecontributor, now in her 30s, reconstructs the rape and the year following in which her assailant was brought to trial and found guilty. When, months after the rape, she confided in her fiction professor, Tobias Wolff, he advised: “Try, if you can, to remember everything.” Sebold heeded his words, and the result is a memoir that reads like detective fiction, replete with police jargon, economical characterization, and film-like scene construction. Part of Sebold’s ironic luck, besides the fact that she wasn’t killed, was that she was a virgin prior to the rape, she was wearing bulky clothing, and her rapist beat her, leaving unmistakable evidence of violence. Sebold casts a cool eye on these facts: “The cosmetics of rape are central to proving any case.” Sebold critiques the sexism and misconceptions surrounding rape with neither rhetoric nor apology; she lets her experience speak for itself. Her family, her friends, her campus community are all shaken by the brutality she survived, yet Sebold finds herself feeling more affinity with police officers she meets, as it was “in [their] world where this hideous thing had happened to me. A world of violent crime.” Just when Sebold believes she might surface from this world, a close friend is raped and the haunting continues. The last section, “Aftermath,” has an unavoidable tacked-on-at-the-end feel, as Sebold crams over a decade’s worth of coping and healing into a short chapter.
Told with mettle and intelligence, Sebold’s story of fierce determination to wrest back her life from her rapist will inspire and challenge.