John Krakauer’s Missoula has been on my TBR for over a year. But I’m actually glad I waited to read it, because it is extremely relevant to today’s current events (unfortunately). Fair warning, this book made me fairly angry the entire time I was reading, and a few days afterwards. And before you read on, it’s probably obvious that this review will discuss sexual assault and rape, so just be aware of that.
(All reviews are spoiler-free unless otherwise noted.)
(From Goodreads) Missoula, Montana is a typical college town, home to a highly regarded state university whose beloved football team inspires a passionately loyal fan base. Between January 2008 and May 2012, hundreds of students reported sexual assaults to the local police. Few of the cases were properly handled by either the university or local authorities. In this, Missoula is also typical.
In these pages, acclaimed journalist Jon Krakauer investigates a spate of campus rapes that occurred in Missoula over a four-year period. Taking the town as a case study for a crime that is sadly prevalent throughout the nation, Krakauer documents the experiences of five victims: their fear and self-doubt in the aftermath; the skepticism directed at them by police, prosecutors, and the public; their bravery in pushing forward and what it cost them. These stories cut through abstract ideological debate about acquaintance rape to demonstrate that it does not happen because women are sending mixed signals or seeking attention. They are victims of a terrible crime, deserving of fairness from our justice system. Rigorously researched, rendered in incisive prose, Missoula stands as an essential call to action.
Like I said, I have been meaning to read this book for a while, but put it off because I knew it would be a difficult read. And I was right. This book is not necessarily an enjoyable read – though it is well-written – but it is definitely a worthwhile one. I am so glad I finally got around to reading it (thank you, Nonfiction November). Missoula focuses on a few rape cases set in the small town of Missoula, Montana and how they were handled by the university (since the rapes discussed were committed by university football players), law enforcement, locals, and the media. And while this is a very small snapshot of rape culture, I think it does a good job at representing how victims and rapists are viewed in general and subsequently highlighting the impact and importance of the #MeToo movement currently going on.
I think the biggest way in which this book impacted me is seeing how rape is often handled by law enforcement. If you’ve ever wondered why women more often than not choose to not report their sexual assault or rape, read this book. It made me so indignant and angry to read about how these young women were treated both by law enforcement and their community. And it made me even more glad that we’re moving towards believing the victims rather than shaming them. It’s such a tough topic, but we need to be talking about it, and this book does a brilliant job of illustrating society’s shortcomings in this case.
I enjoyed the way Krakauer presented each case, and how they related to each other. It really showed how rape affects not only individuals but families and communities as well. I thought it was a great overview, and struck a prefect balance between personal or emotional and political. And, I have to say, this is one of the most engaging nonfiction books I have ever read. Nonfiction books are typically slower reads for me, but I absolutely flew through this one. I could read for hours at a time, easily, and couldn’t stop thinking about it. Which only made me more excited to read more of Krakauer’s work.
★★★★☆ – I am incredibly glad I finally read Missoula. It was far from an easy read, but I learned so much from it. It is such a worthwhile read, and I highly recommend it, especially if you are interested in learning more about rape culture.
You can buy Missoula in bookstores (or Amazon) now.
To get the audiobook for free, use this link to sign up for a free trial of Audible and choose Missoula as one of your two free books.
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