The publicity of uxoricide
Murder by the book? "Bellaire socialite" case has a fiction parallel
Any SAT whizzes out there know the meaning of uxoricide? It's the fancy Latin-based word describing the murder of one's wife.
And unlike fratricide, matricide, infanticide or genocide, if you don't hear the term too often, maybe it's because we're so inured to the murder of women that it doesn't seem worthy of headlines any more.
And surely, we must be accustomed to it. In 2005, 1,181 women were killed by their husbands and intimate partners — that's over three every day. Murder is one of the three leading causes of death of pregnant women, after health complications and traffic accidents. Women are more likely to be killed by their spouse than by all other types of assailants combined.
Yet it's only the pretty, mostly white women with the glamorous back stories that make it to Dateline NBC, like Bellaire's Yvonne Stern (who survived three attempts on her life) and Yeardley Love, the University of Virginia lacrosse player allegedly killed by her ex-boyfriend, a member of the men's lacrosse team.
Would the murder of pretty, young Peruvian Stephany Flores have made national news had her alleged killer not been suspected of murdering American teen Natalee Holloway in Aruba in 2005? Not even a chance. And that's not a slur on Flores (or Love or Stern) — it's a slap aimed at the media.
How is it that the "if it bleeds, it leads" philosophy manages to ignore the giant elephant of violence against women in this country unless it can be glammed up with a smiling coed or the title of socialite?
But with uxoricide in the Houston headlines, it was with particular attention I listened to author Adam Ross on NPR. Ross's debut novel, Mr. Peanut, delves into the subject with a stark, dark tone while never veering into pulp.
Mr. Peanut starts with the true story of Ross's distant cousin, who committed "suicide" with her husband as the only witness — a story that Ross says disturbed him as "an obvious case of murder." Expanding fictionally from there, Ross ties together the marriage in question to those of the investigating detectives.
"I like to say that Mr. Peanut is the story of three marriages that tell the story of one marriage, or one marriage that tells the story of three," Ross says. "What you find as you read the novel is that the marriages share certain similarities, they share certain moments of redemption, they share certain moments of crazy Mexican stand-offs.
"They interlock like many of M.C. Escher's designs, but more importantly they point to, I think, how there can be sudden shifts in marriage and you can go from love and contentment to its opposite."
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