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The Third Rainbow Girl
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The Third Rainbow Girl

The Long Life of a Double Murder in Appalachia

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The Third Rainbow Girl

“The facts are that in the summer of 1980, two young women were hitchhiking in Pocahontas County, West Virginia en route to the annual Rainbow Festival. Their murdered bodies were found in a remote clearing on a remote road. Over the years, multiple people confessed to the murders. Was it a local as many thought? Or an itinerant mass murderer traveling the country, raging against blacks and others? Eisenberg dives deeply into the case after spending time there years later as a Vista volunteer. This engaging book tells the story of the people of this rural county, the history of the area, and the officials who would not let the case die. It is also Emma's story: her time with these people, her loves, and her discontent. It is a stirring addition to the Appalachian story.”

Blue Willow Bookshop image Valerie, Blue Willow Bookshop

Description

A stunning, complex narrative about the fractured legacy of a decades-old double murder in rural West Virginia -- and the writer determined to put the pieces back together.
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. 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. As time passed, the truth seemed to slip away, and the investigation itself inflicted its own traumas -- turning neighbor against neighbor and confirming the fears of violence outsiders have done to this region for centuries.

In The Third Rainbow Girl, Emma Copley Eisenberg uses the Rainbow Murders case as a starting point for a thought-provoking tale of an Appalachian community bound by the false stories that have been told about it. Weaving in experiences from her own years spent living in Pocahontas County, she follows the threads of this crime through the complex history of Appalachia, revealing how this mysterious murder has loomed over all those affected for generations, shaping their fears, fates, and desires. Beautifully written and brutally honest, The Third Rainbow Girl presents a searing and wide-ranging portrait of America -- divided by gender and class, and haunted by its own violence.


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