I didn’t mean to start reading Lucky, Alice Sebold’s memoir of her rape as a college freshman. I’m in the middle of several other books, so I don’t have time to start a new title…and it’s not like a book about rape is a fun summer read. However, after reading (and loving) Sebold’s novel The Lovely Bones, I knew I wanted to read Lucky eventually. So when a friend lent me her copy, I read the first page out of curiosity and was immediately drawn into Sebold’s story.
Like any good screenwriter, Sebold cuts right to the chase. The brutal attack Sebold suffered the night before heading home after her first year of college is the centerpiece of her memoir, so she recounts it on page one. Only after you’ve gotten a graphic look at Sebold’s survivor spirit does she fill in the background to her story: the “weird” dysfunctional family she returns home to, her emotionally distant father, her panic-addled mother.
Sebold’s rape causes her to redefine “normal” as she struggles to return to said state…but it soon becomes clear that her home life was never “normal,” whatever that is. One of the most emotional moments so far in Sebold’s memoir is the moment, for instance, when she confronts her father’s insinuation that she “let” her rapist attack her, given that his weapon was found dropped on the ground not far from the scene of the crime. As Sebold explains to her father–the one man who should sympathize with her–how a beaten and traumatized girl would necessarily be terrified at the thought that her attacker was still armed, readers get a vivid glimpse into what it means to be repeatedly victimized: first by a rapist, and next by friends and family who just don’t “get” it. Sebold make no excuses for the fact that she cooporated with her attacker after it was clear she couldn’t escape. The choice between being raped and being murdered, she suggests, is surprisingly easy to make.
The title Lucky comes from Sebold’s later realization that a girl had been murdered on the spot where she was raped: as police investigators informed her, she was “lucky” only to have been brutalized. Although “lucky” isn’t the first word most women would associate with the word “rape,” Sebold is lucky to have survived with her wits and even a dark sense of humor intact. Sebold didn’t ask to be attacked, nor did she “let” her rape happen to her…but she did, in brutality’s aftermath, choose how to respond. So far, her memoir suggests that she chose an admirable path with both courage and grace.