The Third Rainbow Girl by Emma Copley Eisenberg
In the early evening of June 25, 1980, in Pocahontas County, West Virginia, two middle-class outsiders named Vicki Durian, 26, and Nancy Santomero, 19, were murdered in an isolated clearing. They were hitchhiking to a festival known as the Rainbow Gathering but never arrived; they traveled with a third woman however, who lived. For thirteen years, no one was prosecuted for the “Rainbow Murders,” though deep suspicion was cast on a succession of local residents in the community, depicted as poor, dangerous, and backward.
In 1993, a local farmer was convicted, only to be released when a known serial killer and diagnosed schizophrenic named Joseph Paul Franklin claimed responsibility. With the passage of time, as the truth seemed to slip away, the investigation itself caused its own traumas–turning neighbor against neighbor and confirming a fear of the violence outsiders have done to this region for centuries.
Emma Copley Eisenberg spent years living in Pocahontas and re-investigating these brutal acts. Using the past and the present, she shows how this mysterious act of violence has loomed over all those affected for generations, shaping their fears, fates, and the stories they tell about themselves. In The Third Rainbow Girl, Eisenberg follows the threads of this crime through the complex history of Appalachia, forming a searing and wide-ranging portrait of America–its divisions of gender and class, and of its violence.
January 21st, 2020
While I love a memoir and investigation into a person or area, I think my expectations for this to be more of a true-crime deep dive made this book disappointing for me as the reader. This may just have been one of those situations where I thought this would be a different kind of book based on the book summary.
I struggled to engage with the content because I was really wishing I could get more information about the actual events related to these cases. I have recently enjoyed some of the books that portray life in Appalachia that were quite compelling but this one was just really hard to engage with and felt quite unfocused.
The Third Rainbow Girl ended up being such a slow read for me and it just didn’t hold my interest. While there was some relevant information a lot of it just seemed unnecessary and way too drawn out.
Thank you to NetGalley, LibroFM and Hachette books for advanced copies. All opinions are my own.
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