I am a Krakhead (self-diagnosed). I have read every book by Jon Krakauer, some more than once, some more than twice. The first road trip that my husband and I went on, we listened to Into the Wild, sometimes going hours without speaking, absorbed in what we were hearing. It is really not possible to describe how much I enjoy everything about Krakauer’s books, from his research to his ability to keep humanity at the core of it all. When I heard about the announcement of Missoula, his newest book, I knew I would be reading it as soon as I could get my hands on it.
Missoula is a book that deals with campus rape and sexual assault at the University of Montana in Missoula. Krakauer, as is his signature style, has dug deep into this college town what exact made the Department of Justice single them out in an investigation from 2008 to 2012 and shows readers the horrors of acquaintance rape. We are introduced to several women, learn about their lives and families, and the horrors that were done to them, by their assailants, the community at large, and, in some cases, the local justice system. The book shines a light on the underreported and misunderstood crime of sexual violence by acquaintances, and what exactly is was that made these stand out so much in Missoula, especially in connection with Grizzly football players.
This is not an easy book to read, but it is important. Krakauer starts his book with a warning to readers that there are graphic descriptions of what has been done to these women, and it was difficult to read at times. By pulling straight from police, emergency, and court documents, along with interviews from the victims, we are shown a brutally honest picture of what happens to these women, both during and after their attacks.
This book could not come out at a more auspicious time, given the controversy that is currently surrounding the Rolling Stone magazine article and retraction about campus rape at UVA. The point that Krakauer drives home again and again is that while false claims do happen, the vast majority of rapes that are reported by women are real. And the hurdles that one has to jump over after filing a report are so high that many women do not report at all, and if they do, they become the center of such scrutiny that it is difficult for many victims to handle. Unlike most other crimes, where no one blames the victim, acquaintance rape leads to scrutiny of the victim in a way that burglary, assault, identity theft, and others are not. Krakauer lays this out for the reader in his straightforward style, being careful to stay as impartial as possible throughout.
This is one of the best books I have read this year. That being said, it was the hardest. I did have to put the book down and walk away on more than one occasion, but I kept coming back. As I was once a college coed, I know many women who were in similar situations; I drove friends to the hospital, sat holding their hands. Krakauer’s book, while tough to read, is an important title for all, and hopefully can begin to bring about change that we need, both on and off of college campuses.
Meghan Volchko is a Collection Development Specialist at OverDrive and she hopes to Take Back the Night.