While They Slept
An Inquiry Into the Murder of a Family
By Kathryn Harrison
Ballantine Books, Mass Market Paperbound, 9780345516602, 279pp.
Publication Date: November 24, 2009
List Price: $7.99*
* Individual store prices may vary.
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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? In this mesmerizing book–based on interviews with Billy and Jody as well as with friends, police, and social workers involved in the case–bestselling writer Kathryn Harrison brilliantly uncovers the true story behind this shocking crime and examines the extent as well as the limits of psychic resilience in the aftermath of tragedy.
“[Harrison’s] 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
“A tale at once gothic and Greek, Freudian and Shakespearean, taboo and tragic.”—Washington Post Book World
“Magnificent . . . a darkly poignant study of survival.”—USA Today
“Masterful . . . 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.”—Los Angeles Times
“Lucid, psychologically probing and disturbing…[While they Slept is] a morally nuanced story, and a culmination of Harrison’s favored themes: sex, family and power.”—Time Out New York
“You can count on Harrison for white-water prose and ferocious candor…Harrison’s intense and resonant inquiry affirms the cathartic power of the story, and reflects on the miraculous cycle of loss and death.”—Booklist