In this thoughtful and immersive chronicle of the 1980 murders that thrust West Virginia’s Pocahontas County into the national spotlight, Eisenberg seeks to better understand not only the crimes and their aftermath, but also the lasting impact the region (which she came to know independent of her inquiry) has had on her. A complex and captivating read. Recommended By Tove H., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
A stunningly written investigation of the murder of two young women — showing how a violent crime casts a shadow over an entire community.
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.
"[The Third Rainbow Girl is] about the corrosiveness of preconceived notions, and about how trauma ripples through cultures and generations, and about finding connections in others and strength in oneself. Rich in detail and sensitivity and intelligence and honesty, this is a book you won't want to put down, one that will stay with you for a long time." Robert Kolker, New York Times bestselling author of Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery
"I blazed through this book, which is a true crime page-turner, a moving coming-of-age memoir, an ode to Appalachia, and a scintillating investigation into the human psyche's astounding and sometimes chilling instinct for narrative. A beautiful debut that will stay with me for a long time..." Melissa Febos, Lambda Literary Award winner and author of Whip Smart and Abandon Me
"Emma Copley Eisenberg has written a true crime book that brings to mind Truman Capote's masterpiece In Cold Blood elegantly written, perfectly paced, and vividly realized people and places. Equally impressive is her refusal to condescend to the inhabitants of the Appalachian community where the crimes occurred." Ron Rash, New York Times bestselling author of Serena
"Eisenberg has crafted a beautiful and complicated ode to West Virginia. Exquisitely written, this is a powerful commentary on society's notions of gender, violence, and rural America. Readers of literary nonfiction will devour this title in one sitting." Booklist (Starred Review)
About the Author
Emma Copley Eisenberg is a writer whose work has appeared in Granta, VQR, McSweeney's, Tin House, The Paris Review online, The New Republic, Salon, Slate, and elsewhere. Her work has been supported by the Millay Colony for the Arts, the Elizabeth George Foundation, Lambda Literary, and the New Economy Coalition. Her reporting has been recognized by GLAAD, the New York Association of Black Journalists, the Deadline Club and Longreads' Best Crime Reporting 2017. Eisenberg lives in Philadelphia, where she co-directs Blue Stoop, a community hub for the literary arts.