I’m guessing that you already know that “lucky” is a relative term. Alice Sebold’s memoir could easily have been titled Unlucky.
When she was eighteen years old and a college freshman at Syracuse University, Sebold was walking back to her dorm at night. She was dragged into a tunnel, and repeatedly raped—she was sodomized, beaten and attacked with a knife. The police told her she was lucky because the last girl in a similar situation was killed. And she was lucky because six months after her rape, she saw the rapist strolling through town. He acknowledged her with a ‘Don’t I know you?’ as if the whole thing had been a big joke.
Sebold reported the sighting to the police and her attacker was arrested. Lucky details the ensuing pretrial trauma, including the tricks of identifying the assailant in a police lineup; the trial at which Sebold herself is at times treated as the defendant rather than the victim; the conviction; and life afterward, including the rape of a close friend.
While it is very, very hard to read about this violent rape which drags out over the night, Sebold’s ability to work through her trauma and ‘save her own life’ make it well worth the read. She doesn’t do so easily—the response of her family is strange and discomforting. Her schoolmates expect that she won’t return to school in the fall and seem to fault her for doing so. She really doesn’t have a lot of support—the reader feels that the only reason her rapist was convicted was because Sebold was a virgin when she was raped and because she had been wearing very baggy clothes (i.e., she wasn’t ‘dressed like a whore.’). That’s really the only reason the police even sympathize with her. And those police are lucky in having so much evidence—in that Sebold was so badly beaten. One wonders about girls who have had consensual sex and are later raped—do they get the full efforts of law enforcement to bring the rapist to justice? Do they have a case if they don’t struggle against a man with a knife who could easily kill them?
High school housekeeping: I’m picking this title for my first ‘Throwback Thursday’ review because I still think it deserves wide readership. Lucky is an adult book, and some might argue that the topic is too sensitive, the description too brutally straightforward, for high school. The truth is that Sebold was only eighteen when this happened. She wasn’t hanging at a party, wasn’t drinking, wasn’t out with the wrong people. The truth is that it could happen to anyone. And that’s an important reality for teens to understand.