Sunday, May 05, 2019

I Will Find You (2016)

The idea for this book, which probably counts as a memoir, is so intriguing that it never occurred to me how much I would dread reading it until it was sitting in my stack waiting for me. Joanna Connors was raped in Cleveland in 1984, shortly after she moved there for a job at the Cleveland Plain-Dealer newspaper. The rapist was caught in days, convicted, and imprisoned within the year. Nearly 20 years later, Connors decides to find and confront her attacker. The title reflects this mission as well as the words he used to attempt to intimidate her into not reporting the crime. What she finds almost immediately is a dead man. He died in prison in 2000. Nonetheless, partly for the sake of what she needs personally, and later because the newspaper is interested in the story, she pursues the story, finding out about his family and friends and looking them up, and visiting the places he lived, including the many prisons where he landed. What she finds is a nightmare of a life, the cycles of abuse spelled out as clearly as they can be. In many ways, he's as much a victim as he made her, the anonymous man of the system, lost in the machinery—not just the victim of a failing society in general terms, but more specifically of a monster father and then more abusive figures, almost certainly in prison. As Connors tells it, she hates what happened to her, but never managed the levels of hate reached by those around her. Her husband, for example, supported by her mother, looked into paying to have the attacker killed, a circumstance that actually had the effect of making the experience worse for Connors. In the end, years after the attacker's death, Connors and the man's grieving older sister seem to be the only ones left on the planet aware he even existed. Connors tracks him down all the way to his pitiful anonymous grave. "Well, Dave," she says, standing over it. "Charlene and I are the only ones who really thought about you after you died." This book, this quest, somehow feels really important for this moment. It's a tough one to get to, but well worth it.

In case it's not at the library.

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