At Skylight: Alex Mar presents SEVENTY TIMES SEVEN w/ Ivy Pochoda

Alex Mar with Ivy Pochoda at Skylight Books

On a spring afternoon in 1985 in Gary, Indiana, a fifteen-year-old girl kills an elderly woman in a violent home invasion. In a city with a history of racial tensions and white flight, the girl, Paula Cooper, is Black, and her victim, Ruth Pelke, is white and a beloved Bible teacher. The press swoops in.

When Paula is sentenced to death, no one decries the impending execution of a tenth grader. But the tide begins to shift when the victim’s grandson Bill forgives the girl, against the wishes of his family, and campaigns to spare her life. This tragedy in a midwestern steel town soon reverberates across the United States and around the world—reaching as far away as the Vatican—as newspapers cover the story on their front pages and millions sign petitions in support of Paula.

As Paula waits on death row, her fate sparks a debate that not only animates legal circles but raises vital questions about the value of human life: What are we demanding when we call for justice? Is forgiveness an act of desperation or of profound bravery? As Bill and Paula’s friendship deepens, and as Bill discovers others who have chosen to forgive after terrible violence, their story asks us to consider what radical acts of empathy we might be capable of.

In Seventy Times Seven, Alex Mar weaves an unforgettable narrative of an act of violence and its aftermath. This is a story about the will to live—to survive, to grow, to change—and about what we are willing to accept as justice. Tirelessly researched and told with intimacy and precision, this book brings a haunting chapter in the history of our criminal justice system to astonishing life.

Alex Mar is the author of Witches of America, which was a New York Times Notable Book of 2015. Her work has appeared in New York Magazine, Wired, The New York Times Book Review, and The Guardian, among many other outlets, as well as The Best American Magazine Writing. She was a finalist for the National Magazine Award in Feature Writing in 2018. She is also the director of the feature-length documentary American Mystic. She lives in the Hudson Valley and New York City.

Ivy Pochoda is the author of the critically acclaimed novels Wonder ValleyVisitation Street and These Women, which was a finalist for The Los Angeles Times Book Prize, The Edgar Award, the California Book Award, The Macavity Award, and the International Thriller Writers Award. Ivy has won the 2018 Strand Critics Award for Best Novel and the Prix Page America in France. Her books have been widely translated, and her writing has appeared in The New York TimesThe Wall Street Journal, and The Los Angeles Times, among others. Her latest novel, Sing Her Down will be published by MCD x FSG in May 2023.

Event date: 
Tuesday, May 9, 2023 - 7:00pm
Event address: 
1818 N Vermont Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90027
Seventy Times Seven: A True Story of Murder and Mercy By Alex Mar Cover Image
ISBN: 9780525522157
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Penguin Press - March 28th, 2023