Book Review: The Red Parts

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The Red Parts

Maggie Nelson

Free Press

201 pages

Maggie Nelson was not even born on the spring day long ago in 1969 when her aunt, Jane Mixer, a student at University of Michigan, was found murdered in a rural cemetery. Jane had posted the day previously on a bulletin board on campus looking for a ride home to tell her parents about her engagement. What happened next remained a mystery for almost 35 years.

Back in 2004, Maggie had just finished writing a poetry book about Jane when she received a call from her mother that a man had been arrested under suspicion of Jane’s murder. Gary Leiterman was arrested after a cold hit on his DNA matched the DNA found on Jane’s pantyhose at the crime scene. The Red Parts chronicles Maggie’s life as she sits through Leiterman’s trial.

Because of Nelson’s background as a poet, this is not your typical true crime fare. There is much more fluidity to the prose and much more emotion conveyed. Instead of a retelling and recounting of the trial itself, it is a snapshot into Nelson’s entire life for the brief time during the trial.

I read this for the #24in48 readathon and it was perfect. It grabbed my attention from the beginning, was a shorter length, and kept me riveted throughout. I have heard the poetry piece is not difficult, so although I typically avoid poetry like the plague, I may pick that up.

An interesting aside, Jane Mixer was originally believed to be part of the Michigan Murders, committed by serial killer John Collins. I also plan on reading The Michigan Murders, by Edward Keyes, which was just republished in June of this year.

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