Non-Fiction Reviews- The Stranger Beside Me, Heavy, & The Greatest Love Story Ever Told

The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule

9849994Ann Rule was working on the biggest story of her career, tracking the trail of victims left by a brutal serial-killer. Little did this future bestselling author know that the savage slayer she was hunting was the young man she counted among her closest friends.

Everyone’s picture of a natural winner, Ted Bundy was a bright, charming, and handsome man with a promising future as an attorney. But on January 24, 1989 Bundy was executed for the murders of three young women – and had confessed to taking the lives of at least thirty-five more women from coast to coast. Ann Rule, who kept in constant contact with Bundy throughout the investigation, tells his story as no other person can, capturing the essence of his magnetic power, unholy compulsion and demonic double life.

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The Stranger Beside Me is a true crime novel that I had been meaning to read for ages. With the new Ted Bundy movie starring Zac Efron coming out, as well as the Netflix docu-series, I finally decided to pick it up.

I ended up having very mixed feelings about it.  It was interesting and very informative, but I am not sure how I feel about Rule’s  personal narrative that she includes throughout the book. I understand that she was friends with Bundy so it was difficult for her to accept that he was a serial killer, but it would have been nice if she was a little more introspective and pointed out some of the red flags that she missed in hindsight.  I also have to wonder if she exaggerated her friendship with Bundy and if she used him in a way because she knew it would be a good story.

That said, it was a more personal perspective of Ted Bundy which I thought was fascinating.  I believe that this book, along with the Netflix docu-series, will tell you all you need to know about who Ted Bundy was. Now, I would love to learn more about his victims and their lives.

Heavy: An American Marriage by Kiese Laymon

29430746In Heavy, Laymon writes eloquently and honestly about growing up a hard-headed black son to a complicated and brilliant black mother in Jackson, Mississippi. From his early experiences of sexual violence, to his suspension from college, to his trek to New York as a young college professor, Laymon charts his complex relationship with his mother, grandmother, anorexia, obesity, sex, writing, and ultimately gambling. By attempting to name secrets and lies he and his mother spent a lifetime avoiding, Laymon asks himself, his mother, his nation, and us to confront the terrifying possibility that few in this nation actually know how to responsibly love, and even fewer want to live under the weight of actually becoming free.

A personal narrative that illuminates national failures, Heavy is defiant yet vulnerable, an insightful, often comical exploration of weight, identity, art, friendship, and family that begins with a confusing childhood—and continues through twenty-five years of haunting implosions and long reverberations.

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Heavy was everything that I look for in a memoir.  Kiese Laymon bears his soul and does not shy away from sharing his truth.  I have not read a memoir this raw since Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhoot.

Laymon’s memoir in written as a letter to his mother, and you almost feel guilty reading it because it feels so personal. Once you read Heavy, and you really should, I highly recommend you go to Laymon’s blog and read his mother’s response. It brought tears to my eyes that she ends her letter with “I hear you.” Aren’t those words we all want to hear?

In 256 pages, Laymon takes on a lot of difficult topics, from his difficult relationship with his mother and her expectations, to his experience with sexual violence, and his relationship with his body and food.  He talks about his university career, and the prejudices that he faced there.  He also owns up to his own mistakes and shortcomings.  

There is so much to gain from Heavy, and it is incredibly written. 

The Greatest Love Story Ever Told by Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman

38919266The year: 2000. The setting: Los Angeles. A gorgeous virtuoso of an actress had agreed to star in a random play, and a basement-dwelling scenic carpenter had said he would assay a supporting role in the selfsame pageant. At the first rehearsal, she surveyed her fellow cast members, as one does, determining if any of the men might qualify to provide her with a satisfying fling. Her gaze fell upon the carpenter, and like a bolt of lightning, the thought struck her: No dice. Moving on.

Yet, unbeknownst to our protagonists, Cupid had merely set down his bow and picked up a rocket launcher. Then fired a love rocket (not a euphemism). The players were Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman, and the resulting romance, once it ignited, was . . . epic. Beyond epic. It resulted in a coupling that has endured to this day; a sizzling, perpetual tryst that has captivated the world with its kindness, athleticism, astonishingly low-brow humor, and true (fire emoji) passion.

How did they do it? They came from completely different families, endured a significant age difference, and were separated by the gulf of several social strata. Megan loved books and art history; Nick loved hammers. But much more than these seemingly unsurpassable obstacles were the values they held in common: respect, decency, the ability to mention genitalia in almost any context, and an abiding obsession with the songs of Tom Waits.

Eighteen years later, they’re still very much in love, and have finally decided to reveal the philosophical mountains they have conquered, the lessons they’ve learned, and the myriad jigsaw puzzles they’ve completed, in a book. Featuring anecdotes, hijinks, interviews, photos, and a veritable grab bag of tomfoolery, this is not only the intoxicating book that Mullally’s and Offerman’s fans have been waiting for, it might just hold the solution to the greatest threat facing our modern world: the single life.

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If you do not know or do not care about Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman than you will not care about this book.  If you are like me and you adore them, I think you will love it! They are both so great individually and as a couple. I loved reading their perspective on life, love, careers, etc.  I was not expecting to come away with so much advice and insight! Like you would expect, it was absolutely hysterical.  It was written in a unique way- like a transcript of their conversation.  I could see that not working for some people, but it made the book feel much more genuine in my eyes.  I think the audiobook is probably fantastic and I might listen to it as well in the future!

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20 thoughts on “Non-Fiction Reviews- The Stranger Beside Me, Heavy, & The Greatest Love Story Ever Told

  1. I read The Stranger Beside Me many years ago, back when it was uncommon for journalists to inject their personal points of view in their work. I think this was Rule’s struggle…how to tell Bundy’s story without making it be about her. I had a similar reaction to yours initially but later, after a lot of reflection and research, I realized that this book provides more insight about Bundy than any other I’ve read. I came to realize that perhaps she just gave us that insight without claiming personal attribution, which adds more credibility to the book.

    Just a thought.

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  2. I loved Ann Rule’s books and The Stranger Beside Me was my favorite. She used to do interviews on different crime tv shows and went into a lot of detail with Ted. I do believe she was honest about their friendship. She really struggled with seeing how he was evil because he was so different around her. But he was like that with a lot of women. He was charming and it fooled a lot of them. I can’t imagine finding out that someone I considered a friend was a killer. I read most of her books, but haven’t caught up on the last few. The Green River killer one was good, as was Small Sacrifices. One thing I loved about Ann’s books was that she spent a lot of time talking about the victims and the detectives/lawyers. She never wanted it to only be about the killer. I appreciated that a lot. Not all true crime authors I’ve read have done that.

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    1. I would like to read more of her work! I do appreciate when a true crime novels talks about the victims. I can’t imagine what it would be like to find out a friend is a Serial killer. I just wish took it a bit further and looked back on it reflecting on signs she missed etc. I probably should watched some of her interviews!

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      1. I do wish she would have done that, too. But it’s possible she did and it was cut from the book? So hard to say. I know she still struggled years later with her relationship with him. She used to work alone with him. I don’t think anything ever seemed off. So scary.

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      2. Oh wow! I had no idea. I know her daughter writes ghost books, but I had no clue on her sons. I haven’t read any true crime in quite awhile. I started reading them in high school and went pretty strong with them for a good 15 years. Looks like I need to catch up on what happened with Ann before she died. Thank you for the info. I agree that a book about her life would be amazing.

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  3. I also felt mixed about The Stranger Beside Me. It was compelling but not everything that I wanted to know. I also would love to read something that focuses more on the victims’ lives, but I kind of have the feeling that’s kind of a more recent way of writing true crime? Great to read your thoughts on Heavy as well…I haven’t read it yet but it seems like a must-read.

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