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Monday, June 30, 2014

While They Slept: An Inquiry Into the Murder of a Family

I found While They Slept: An Inquiry Into the Murder of a Family by Kathryn Harrison while doing research on another book. Of course I picked it up. You had me at "murder."

In the early hours of April 27, 1984, Billy Gilley beat his parents and youngest sister to death with a baseball bat. He then walked upstairs to his sister Jody's room and pronounced them free. What would drive a young man to commit such a heinous crime? How can Jody move on from the hurt and the pain of simultaneously losing her family, and at the hands of her brother? This exercise in teasing out the answers to these questions (and more) makes out Harrison's account, examining both the years leading up to the murders and the years following. This kind of crime, parricide, doesn't happen in a vacuum--so what's the story?

I read this whole book in one sitting, mesmerized by the idea that this not only could happen, but did. Not only is it hard to grasp, but I found myself wavering between what the truth might be and the justification of Billy's actions while still facing the horrifying nature of his crime and the unnecessary brutality of his actions. This book was one big waver-fest. You know from the beginning that Jody has turned out to be a well-adjusted adult who doesn't speak often of her experience, and I found it interesting that she really doesn't speak with her brother at all. What a fascinating case this was, and if you are looking for a book that has right versus wrong, look elsewhere.

Kindle on left, hard copy on right.

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