Few figures are as polarizing as Amanda Knox, the American student originally convicted of the murder of her roommate, Meredith Kercher, in Perugia, Italy, during a study abroad gone wrong. The murder conviction was ultimately overturned in Oct. 2011, after Knox had spent four years in prison.
Most folks long ago made up their minds about Knox’s guilt or innocence, casting her in their mind’s eye either as the “she-devil” seen in the tabloids or an angel-faced young girl entangled in a sordid affair of another’s doing.
“Waiting to be Heard,” Knox’s highly anticipated new memoir, which was published Tuesday, might actually change that.
According to early reviews of the book, “Waiting to be Heard” reveals a gentler side of Knox, one that just might shift readers’ views of the American student.
That’s because the book, a selection of memories from her time in Perugia, offers what might be the first real look at the figure at the center of this drama: Knox herself.
From her relationship with her divorced parents to her excitement over her trip to Italy to the harrowing years she spent in prison, the memoir paints the most comprehensive picture to date of Knox and invites readers to sympathize with her.
“Passages in which Knox contemplates suicide – and even how she would do it – will surely soften even her staunchest critics,” writes The Daily Beast. “Her scenes of sweltering in jail and the bullying and sexual advances by other inmates are also insights that few have heard before... Likewise, her description of how she felt at both verdicts – the first when she was convicted and the second when that conviction was overturned – finally add words and emotions to the pictures that ran across the world’s media.”
Reviewing the book for The New York Times, Michiko Kakutani writes of Knox: "She emerges from these pages less as a Jamesian heroine or Kafka-esque protagonist than as a naïve, impetuous, somewhat quirky girl who loved soccer and the Beatles and who suddenly found herself caught up in a Hitchcockian nightmare, with bad luck and some bad judgment calls leading her into a labyrinth seemingly without end."
By and large, the narrative Knox weaves is one of a naive and immature young girl whose traumatic experience in Italy was a cruel coming-of-age.
“I went in a naive, quirky 20-year-old and came out a mature, introspective woman,” she writes near the end of the book – a campaign of sorts, for asserting her innocence and mending her image.
Does it work?
The Daily Beast said it best. “Those who feel she is complicit will find it lacking. Those who feel she is innocent will agree with every word.”
Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.