Like Ruskin for a new age, Spalding brilliantly interweaves her own life and her subject’s in this story of a sensational murder case.
In 1982, as Linda Spalding was about to leave Hawaii and embark on a new life in Canada, she was called to jury duty, sitting for the trial of a young woman charged with murder. Maryann Acker was Mormon, eighteen years old, and married to a petty crook and hustler who had hauled her into a life that led eventually to murder on a hillside above one of Hawaii’s most beautiful beaches.
Twenty years later, Spalding stumbles across the journal she kept through the trial, tracks down Maryann, who is still in jail, and begins a journey into memory, into the twists of fate that spin two lives down such different trajectories. The story is Maryann’s but it is also Spalding’s, as subject and writer overlap. Like the work of John Ruskin, Linda Spalding’s writing brilliantly combines autobiography with the examination of an external subject and, in doing so, offers us profound insights into the vagaries of the human heart.
In June 1978, Larry Hasker was murdered in Hawaii. Maryann Acker was convicted of the crime in 1982 and sentenced to life in prison. In this sparkling account, noted Canadian novelist Spalding creates a nuanced, deeply felt tale of her own involvement in the story and how it led her along a path of self-discovery. Chosen for the jury, Spalding was dismissed from the case after showing up five minutes late one day. Acker was convicted and their lives spun off in different directions until, 18 years later, Spalding unearthed the diary she had kept during the trial, contacted Acker and became entwined in an attempt to get Acker a new trial (the main witness against her has since confessed to the murder). Spalding's strong, elegant prose carries the story along effortlessly. With her own life full of tragedy a failed marriage, the accidental death of a brother and sister-in-law Spalding both relates to Acker and suffers from guilt, knowing her vote might have spared Acker a life behind bars. Along the way, Spalding weaves a beautiful story about coming to terms with her mother's imminent death and her unresolved relationship with her often violent-tempered father. This delicate yet powerful work should find a wide readership.