A promising young author reappraises a notorious double murder—and her life.




A former resident of Appalachia reconsiders its unsolved “Rainbow Murders” in a genre-straddling debut that blends true crime and memoir.

Eisenberg tells two interwoven stories that span three decades in heavily forested Pocahontas County, West Virginia. The first—and by far the more interesting—story centers on the unsolved 1980 murders of two young women whose bodies turned up in a clearing after they were shot while hitchhiking to a festival known as the Rainbow Gathering. Alarming rumors quickly spread about local farmer Jacob Beard, who went to prison for the Rainbow Murders 13 years later. Then Charlie Rose and 60 Minutes II, having heard that serial killer Joseph Paul Franklin had confessed to the crimes, started poking around, and a judge granted a new trial for Beard, whom a jury found not guilty. Alleging police misconduct and malicious prosecution, Beard sued and was awarded nearly $2 million. Eisenberg learned of the murders while working for an anti-poverty program in the area after graduating from college, and she reconstructs the case with a brisk pace and a keen sensitivity to a Gordian knot of kinship and other ties that posed challenges for the police and suspects alike. The author’s compelling second story is, in effect, a memoir of her coming-of-age in Pocahontas County, involving bluegrass parties, lots of alcohol, and sex with an inapt partner. “I told him I was queer and that my most recent relationship had been with a woman,” she writes. “That’s cool, he said.” Several themes link the true-crime and memoir sections—including how we distinguish lies from the truth—and a related set piece explores the stereotypes of Appalachians as either “noble and stalwart” mountaineers or “profligate” and “amusing” hillbillies. With access to Beard and other key figures, Eisenberg avoids both perils and offers a nuanced portrait of a crime and its decadeslong effects.

A promising young author reappraises a notorious double murder—and her life.

Pub Date: Jan. 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-44923-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Hachette

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2019

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller


Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

Did you like this book?