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

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

ISBN13: 9781400065424
ISBN10: 1400065429
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
All Product Details

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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Early on an April morning, eighteen-year-old Billy Frank Gilley, Jr., killed his sleeping parents. Surprised in the act by his younger sister, Becky, he turned on her as well. Billy then climbed the stairs to the bedroom of his other sister, Jody, and said, "We're free."

But is one ever free after an unredeemable act of violence? The Gilley family murders ended a lifetime of physical and mental abuse suffered by Billy and Jody at the hands of their parents. And it required each of the two survivors — one a convicted murderer, the other suddenly an orphan — to create a new identity, a new life.

In this mesmerizing book, bestselling writer Kathryn Harrison brilliantly uncovers the true story behind a shocking and unforgettable crime as she explores the impact of escalating violence and emotional abuse visited on the children of a deeply troubled family. With an artistry that recalls Truman Capote's In Cold Blood, Norman Mailer's The Executioner's Song, and her own The Kiss, Harrison reveals the antecedents of the murders — of a crime of such violence that it had the power to sever past from present — and the consequences for Billy and for Jody. Weaving in meditations on her own experience of parental abuse, Harrison searches out answers to the question of how survivors of violent trauma shape a future when their lives have been divided into Before and After.

Based on interviews with Billy and Jody as well as with friends, police, and social workers involved in the case, While They Slept is Kathryn Harrison's unflinching inquiry into the dark heart of violence in an American family, and a personal quest to understand how young people go on after tragedy — to examine the extent as well as the limits of psychic resilience. The New York Times called Kathryn Harrison's The Kiss "a powerful piece of writing, a testament to evil and hope." The same could be said about While They Slept.

Review:

"In the early morning of April 27, 1984, outside Medford, Ore., 18-year-old Billy Gilley bludgeoned his parents, Bill and Linda, and his 11-year-old sister, Becky, to death. He believed his act would allow him and his 16-year-old sister, Jody, to free themselves from an abusive home. Comprising extensive interviews with both Jody, a Georgetown graduate and victims' rights advocate, and Billy, serving three consecutive life sentences in Oregon, Harrison recounts the trial, where Jody was the prosecution's star witness, and attempts to understand the Gilleys' troubled family history. Despite differing accounts from the now estranged siblings on the severity of their parents' abuse, it's clear that both parents routinely engaged in verbal and physical cruelty. Billy claimed his murder of Becky was unintentional, but it sealed his fate. Novelist and memoirist Harrison (The Kiss) attends admirably to detail, and her dissection of the effects of violence on both perpetrators and victims is thorough. But by bookending the account with musings on her incestuous relationship with her own father — already addressed in both her fiction and nonfiction — Harrison dilutes the power of the Gilleys' story. (June 17)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Synopsis:

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

Synopsis:

Early on an April morning, eighteen-year-old Billy Frank Gilley, Jr., killed his sleeping parents. Surprised in the act by his younger sister, Becky, he turned on her as well. Billy then climbed the stairs to the bedroom of his other sister, Jody, and said, We're free.

But is one ever free after an unredeemable act of violence? The Gilley family murders ended a lifetime of physical and mental abuse suffered by Billy and Jody at the hands of their parents. And it required each of the two survivors-one a convicted murderer, the other suddenly an orphan-to create a new identity, a new life.

In this mesmerizing book, bestselling writer Kathryn Harrison brilliantly uncovers the true story behind a shocking and unforgettable crime as she explores the impact of escalating violence and emotional abuse visited on the children of a deeply troubled family. With an artistry that recalls Truman Capote's In Cold Blood, Norman Mailer's The Executioner's Song, and her own The Kiss, Harrison reveals the antecedents of the murders-of a crime of such violence that it had the power to sever past from present-and the consequences for Billy and for Jody. Weaving in meditations on her own experience of parental abuse, Harrison searches out answers to the question of how survivors of violent trauma shape a future when their lives have been divided into Before and After.

Based on interviews with Billy and Jody as well as with friends, police, and social workers involved in the case, While They Slept is Kathryn Harrison's unflinching inquiry into the dark heart of violence in an American family, and a personal quest to understand how young people go on after tragedy-to examine the extent as well as the limits of psychic resilience. The New York Times called Kathryn Harrison's The Kiss a powerful piece of writing, a testament to evil and hope. The same could be said about While They Slept.

PRAISE FOR WHILE THEY SLEPT

Harrison does a magnificent job of sorting through the heartbreak of a family tragedy. By adding insights into her own life, she brings us a little closer to understanding the resilience of the human spirit and the irrevocable damage and unforeseen consequences of child and sexual abuse.

-USA Today

The result of Harrison's masterful embellishment is a fascinating and comprehensive examination of the before and after of a brutal triple murder, of the cyclical nature of violence and of the tragic ineffectiveness of our social support systems...While They Slept does not provide the easy answers we hope to discover in 'just the facts, ' but it offers instead the richer and more enduring illumination of 'the story.'

-L.A. Times

Her telling brings moral clarity to the dark fate of a family: the daylight gaze of narrative itself as a form of empathy.

-New York Times Book Review, cover review

A powerful account...This excellent book will be devoured by educators who try to come to grips with the lasting effects of the traumas of childhood.

-Deseret Morning News

Harrison offers careful research and obvious concern... While They Slept's real horror is in how many potential helpers were aware of the abuse and were unable to help. This is a heartbreaking read.

-Rocky Mountain News

Kathryn Harrison pulls the reader through the story of the 1984 triple murder in Medford-our own backyard-with such speed and excitement it feels like you're watching an episode of Law & Order: Criminal Intent...Harrison perfectly paces the revelations of new characters, who add critical information and perspective to the Gilley murder.

-Willamette Weekly

About the Author

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.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 1 comment:

Carla, January 30, 2009 (view all comments by Carla)
I disagree with the review that compares this work favorably to Truman Capote's In Cold Blood. Capote's work was groundbreaking, creating a genre, and, while Harrison's command of language is outstanding, While They Slept is not a classic.
Capote and Harrison's work do share the viewpoint of an arguably biased author. In this case, Harrison admittedly identifies so strongly with Jody Gilley's situation (having one's life divided into a "before" and "after" by trauma) that she does not seem to see Jody, and her brother, Billy Gilley, Jr., for whom they truly are. The overwhelming impression for this reader is that Harrison needed Jody to be brilliant and good; Billy, dense, and evil. The truth is far from that simple.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(6 of 7 readers found this comment helpful)

Product Details

ISBN:
9781400065424
Subtitle:
An Inquiry into the Murder of a Family
Author:
Harrison, Kathryn
Publisher:
Random House
Subject:
Murder
Subject:
Abusive parents.
Subject:
Murder - General
Subject:
Murder - Oregon - Medford
Subject:
Parricide - Oregon - Medford
Subject:
General True Crime
Copyright:
Publication Date:
June 10, 2008
Binding:
Hardback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
304
Dimensions:
9.54x6.42x1.09 in. 1.12 lbs.

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Related Subjects

History and Social Science » Crime » General
History and Social Science » Crime » True Crime

While They Slept: An Inquiry Into the Murder of a Family Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$6.50 In Stock
Product details 304 pages Random House - English 9781400065424 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "In the early morning of April 27, 1984, outside Medford, Ore., 18-year-old Billy Gilley bludgeoned his parents, Bill and Linda, and his 11-year-old sister, Becky, to death. He believed his act would allow him and his 16-year-old sister, Jody, to free themselves from an abusive home. Comprising extensive interviews with both Jody, a Georgetown graduate and victims' rights advocate, and Billy, serving three consecutive life sentences in Oregon, Harrison recounts the trial, where Jody was the prosecution's star witness, and attempts to understand the Gilleys' troubled family history. Despite differing accounts from the now estranged siblings on the severity of their parents' abuse, it's clear that both parents routinely engaged in verbal and physical cruelty. Billy claimed his murder of Becky was unintentional, but it sealed his fate. Novelist and memoirist Harrison (The Kiss) attends admirably to detail, and her dissection of the effects of violence on both perpetrators and victims is thorough. But by bookending the account with musings on her incestuous relationship with her own father — already addressed in both her fiction and nonfiction — Harrison dilutes the power of the Gilleys' story. (June 17)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Synopsis" by , From the bestselling author of The Kiss comes a riveting account of true crime — the murder of a family in a small Midwestern town — and the gripping exploration of its haunting aftermath.
"Synopsis" by , Early on an April morning, eighteen-year-old Billy Frank Gilley, Jr., killed his sleeping parents. Surprised in the act by his younger sister, Becky, he turned on her as well. Billy then climbed the stairs to the bedroom of his other sister, Jody, and said, We're free.

But is one ever free after an unredeemable act of violence? The Gilley family murders ended a lifetime of physical and mental abuse suffered by Billy and Jody at the hands of their parents. And it required each of the two survivors-one a convicted murderer, the other suddenly an orphan-to create a new identity, a new life.

In this mesmerizing book, bestselling writer Kathryn Harrison brilliantly uncovers the true story behind a shocking and unforgettable crime as she explores the impact of escalating violence and emotional abuse visited on the children of a deeply troubled family. With an artistry that recalls Truman Capote's In Cold Blood, Norman Mailer's The Executioner's Song, and her own The Kiss, Harrison reveals the antecedents of the murders-of a crime of such violence that it had the power to sever past from present-and the consequences for Billy and for Jody. Weaving in meditations on her own experience of parental abuse, Harrison searches out answers to the question of how survivors of violent trauma shape a future when their lives have been divided into Before and After.

Based on interviews with Billy and Jody as well as with friends, police, and social workers involved in the case, While They Slept is Kathryn Harrison's unflinching inquiry into the dark heart of violence in an American family, and a personal quest to understand how young people go on after tragedy-to examine the extent as well as the limits of psychic resilience. The New York Times called Kathryn Harrison's The Kiss a powerful piece of writing, a testament to evil and hope. The same could be said about While They Slept.

PRAISE FOR WHILE THEY SLEPT

Harrison does a magnificent job of sorting through the heartbreak of a family tragedy. By adding insights into her own life, she brings us a little closer to understanding the resilience of the human spirit and the irrevocable damage and unforeseen consequences of child and sexual abuse.

-USA Today

The result of Harrison's masterful embellishment is a fascinating and comprehensive examination of the before and after of a brutal triple murder, of the cyclical nature of violence and of the tragic ineffectiveness of our social support systems...While They Slept does not provide the easy answers we hope to discover in 'just the facts, ' but it offers instead the richer and more enduring illumination of 'the story.'

-L.A. Times

Her telling brings moral clarity to the dark fate of a family: the daylight gaze of narrative itself as a form of empathy.

-New York Times Book Review, cover review

A powerful account...This excellent book will be devoured by educators who try to come to grips with the lasting effects of the traumas of childhood.

-Deseret Morning News

Harrison offers careful research and obvious concern... While They Slept's real horror is in how many potential helpers were aware of the abuse and were unable to help. This is a heartbreaking read.

-Rocky Mountain News

Kathryn Harrison pulls the reader through the story of the 1984 triple murder in Medford-our own backyard-with such speed and excitement it feels like you're watching an episode of Law & Order: Criminal Intent...Harrison perfectly paces the revelations of new characters, who add critical information and perspective to the Gilley murder.

-Willamette Weekly

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