This piece was a finalist for a 2006 Pulitzer Prize. U.S.District Judge Joan Lefkow became famous after a man whose case she oversaw murdered her husband and mother in the basement of their home. Schmich follows Lefkow as she struggles to heal following such trauma.

It’s a notable piece for its voice and structure. We found the beginning a bit stiff—perhaps too column-like and not narrative enough—but were soon drawn in by the sensitive yet authoritative voice and the unfolding of story. The piece gradually reveals Lefkow’s character, more through theme than plot. In this sense it’s like an essay. The voice is elegiacal, and yet forceful in its assertion of the depth of Lefkow’s grief. Schmich’s use of first person aids in that assertiveness; it lends emotional weight to the narration.

We wondered, as we read, if the ending would be forced, too tidy, if Schmich would impose a resolution on Lefkow’s story (how could there be resolution, after nine months). And yet Schmich is persuasive in showing that Lefkow has begun to regain, as they say, some semblance of a normal life. And still, Schmich makes it clear that Lefkow continues to suffer greatly.

Read “The Journey of Judge Joan Lefkow,” by Mary Schmich

Most popular articles from Nieman Storyboard