Review: Lucky, by Alice Sebold

Alice Sebold is a terrific writer and this book proves it. A memoir of her rape at a time when she was a young student at Syracuse University, it begins with a harrowing and honest account of the crime. From there, she talks about how her friends and family grappled with it all, and how it changed her forever.

An important part of the book is the story of how she accidentally spotted her rapist on the street one day, months after the attack, which led to his arrest, trial and conviction. Sebold goes into some detail in her report on the trial, including her positive identification of the defendant as the man who raped her. The only problem is that she apparently identified the wrong man, and as a result, an innocent man went on to spend many years in prison and many more years listed as a sex offender, his life ruined. An innocent man.

Sebold wanted to write a book about sexual violence and women, and in the book is rather dismissive of the issue of race, which she saw as incidental. She is angry when the defendant’s lawyer asks her how many Black men she knew — because that’s not really relevant. And yet, the fact that the man she identified was Black and she was White turned about to be far more important than she realised.

The publisher stopped selling the book when the man she identified, Anthony J. Broadwater, was finally exonerated recently, 40 years after the crime. That whet my appetite — and I’m sure that of others as well — to read the book. I look forward to reading Sebold’s thoughts on all this in a future edition of the book.