9780345516602

While They Slept

by
  • ISBN13:

    9780345516602

  • ISBN10:

    0345516605

  • Format: Trade Book
  • Copyright: 2009-11-24
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books
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Summary

From the bestselling author of "The Kiss" comes a riveting account of the murder of a family in a small Midwestern town, and the gripping exploration of its haunting aftermath.

Author Biography

Kathryn Harrison is the author of the memoirs The Kiss and The Mother Knot. She has also written the novels Envy, The Seal Wife, The Binding Chair, Poison, Exposure, and Thicker Than Water; a travel memoir, The Road to Santiago; a biography, Saint Thérèse of Lisieux; and a collection of essays, Seeking Rapture. She lives in New York with her husband, the novelist Colin Harrison, and their children.

Excerpts

On the morning of Thursday, April 26, 1984, Jody Gilley went to her neighbor Kathy Ackerson's before school. As was her habit, she went out the kitchen door and cut across the field that separated their two homes. Jody and Kathy had gotten to know each other the previous year, on the bus to and from Medford High, where they were now sophomores. They didn't socialize during the school day; Jody hung with a straighter crowd than Kathy, who by her own admission was something of a stoner. As Jody describes it, she and Kathy weren't best friends, but they liked each other and were frequently in each other's homes. "My next-field neighbor," they called each other. It wasn't unusual for Jody to finish getting dressed over at Kathy's.  

"Because you wanted to wear something your mother didn't approve of?" I ask Jody.  

"No, the dressing-sexy-for-school thing happened much earlier, in fifth or sixth grade. By tenth grade it was all about looking punk. Ratting my hair, applying dark eye makeup, piercing my ears with safety pins. And all of that happened at school, in the girls' bathroom. At Kathy's it was just, you know, getting ready for school together. Me probably using the Mary Kay makeup she had because her mom sold it, whereas my makeup was bottom-drawer Fred Meyer lip gloss and Maybelline. Also, I was curling-iron challenged, and Kathy could get that perfect eighties feather in a way I couldn't."  

I nod. Long, auburn, glossy: Jody's hair is the first thing I notice about her. The way she gathers it into one hand and pulls it forward in a thick rope over one shoulder-the image stays with me after our first meeting, I'm not sure why. Perhaps because it's a pretty gesture. Jody herself is pretty, with a heart-shaped face and hazel eyes, not much if any makeup. Dressed in dark pants and a denim jacket, high heels. When she talks, all the emphasis is in her voice. She speaks without using her hands, as I was taught, unsuccessfully, to do.  

Nothing about Jody's appearance surprises me-I didn't, after all, have any idea what she looked like-but her physical presence is itself unsettling. The Jody I know is sixteen, a girl in a car with her brother, the two of them motionless. Petrified, as if the murders had been, like the head of a Gorgon, a sight that turned them to stone. For ten years I've known Jody not as a woman but as a character, one among the many in my head, images taken from books and movies, not so much people as ideas of people, whom I expect never to encounter in the flesh.  


There was more to getting dressed at Kathy's than looking the way Jody wanted for school. It was easier in the house across the field. Kathy's parents weren't always fighting with each other or screaming at their children. Her mother didn't look for excuses to punish her daughter; she didn't throw things at Kathy or pin her down and blow cigarette smoke in her face just out of meanness. She didn't denigrate her children or act like reading was a waste of time, the way Jody's parents did. The fact that Jody spent so much of her life hidden behind the cover of a book was a source of conflict at home; her family understood her insatiable, nearly compulsive reading for what it was: escape, judgment. Jody would rather be anywhere than there, with them; she was just biding her time until she could walk out the door, old enough that the police wouldn't come after her and bring her back, as they did her brother when he ran away.  

Kathy had brothers, but they were younger than Billy, thirteen and fourteen, and they were good kids, normal anyway. They didn't cause the kind of trouble Billy did-didn't get kicked out of Bible camp for smoking in the woods, didn't get arrested for breaking into cars or setting people's living rooms on fire. They didn't sneak into Kathy's room at night to put their hands between her legs.  


After they got dr

Excerpted from While They Slept: An Inquiry into the Murder of a Family by Kathryn Harrison
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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