Ansel Packer has 12 hours left until his execution. He knows he killed those women but he never though he’d end up here on death row. He knows objectively what he did was wrong, but in another universe things might have been different. But while Ansel Packer may have murdered those women, this isn’t his story. This is the story of the women who interacted with Ansel and who were most impacted by Ansel’s actions. It’s a brilliant way to tell the story of a serial killer, while making the victims the main characters, and the killer a side character. As Kukafka states at the beginning of the novel, “I am tired of seeing Ted Bundy’s face. This is a book for the women who survive.‘
How do I even do justice to this book with a review? That has been my question since I read the last page of Notes on an Execution. Plain and simple this is a thought provoking and powerfully written story.
Told through fastbacks from Ansel and three women he’s encountered in his life. I loved that we spend 90% of the book with the women . Lavender, his mother, whose own unsafe conditions lead to very specific events in Ansel’s life. Hazel, who se relationship with her twin is irrevocably impacted by Ansel. Saffy, the detective who put Ansel away and who’s path crossed with Ansel as children and is also my favorite character. I could go for a whole detective series with Saffy as the main character. Each women brought such a different perspective to the mix and had such unique voices. Kuukafka has done a great job of having these women show us who Ansel is, while also focusing more on the women themselves.
This isn’t an easy book to digest as it does deal with some tough topics, trigger warnings below. This is my first 5 star read of 2022, and while the book is great to read, the audio narration is also amazing. If you’re looking for something to listen to, I would highly recommend it.
TW: Small scenes of animal cruelty, domestic violence
A River Enchanted is out now. Huge thank you to William Morrow for my advanced copy in exchange for my honest opinion. If you liked this review please let me know either by commenting below or by visiting my instagram @speakingof_books.