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The Third Rainbow Girl: The Long Life of a Double Murder in Appalachia

3.17  ·  Rating details ·  3,750 ratings  ·  763 reviews
In the afternoon or early evening of June 25, 1980, two young women, Vicki Durian and Nancy Santomero, were killed in an isolated clearing in rural Pocahontas County West Virginia. They were hitchhiking to an outdoor peace festival known as the Rainbow Gathering, but never arrived. Their killings have been called “The Rainbow Murders.”

For thirteen years, no one was prosecu
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published January 21st 2020 by Hachette Books
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Claire Copley There was a third girl traveling with the two victims who left just before they were murdered. She was the lone survivor. There is a lovely ambiguity …moreThere was a third girl traveling with the two victims who left just before they were murdered. She was the lone survivor. There is a lovely ambiguity to the title as I found myself wondering if Eisenberg was not another survivor, and another Third Rainbow girl.(less)

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Average rating 3.17  · 
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Dec 22, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: reviewed
First and foremost, this book does not belong in the true crime genre. Lately I've seen publishers publicizing and categorizing their books in the most puzzling ways and this one takes the prize. To compare "The Third Rainbow Girl" to "In Cold Blood" makes as much sense as comparing a forest to a dust bunny.

It opens with a numbered prologue called "True Things," which gives away all the facts of the crime and other Things. None of what follows is a spoiler because all of it is there at the begin
jv poore
Mar 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
The summer of 1980 gave the people of Pocahontas, and its neighboring Greenbrier county, something brand new to gossip and gripe about. A bunch of (probably) dirty, drunk and drugged-out dudes and chicks were about to descend. The Rainbow Family Gathering was moving east for the first time and the meeting place this year was in the Monongahela Forest in West Virginia.

Individually, the people are quite warm and welcoming. However, many did not want this Rainbow Festival happening on their pristi
Valerity (Val)
This unusual blend of true crime and memoir is rather quirky and I’m not quite sure how I feel about it. There are places it felt a bit sideswiped to me, then I’d go back to enjoying it once again. The true crime parts were good, as was the history of the state and the research. The two women, Vicki Durian, 26, and Nancy Santomero, 19, were headed to a Rainbow Gathering festival in Pocahontas County, West Virginia, near the Virginia border. They never made it, having been murdered in a clearing ...more
Thank you @Netgalley for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
It pains me to say this but this is the first book I DNF in a very, very long time. Shortly after starting this book yesterday I didn't think it will be for me; however I figured I would give it the good old try and see if I would like it a little later on.
I was at 25% before I completely gave up on trying to force the read. I was looking for this book to be about the murder of 2 girls in Pocahontas Cou
I really wanted to like this book. It started out so great, it seemed, giving a history of West Virginia and the people there. I learned a lot I didn't know, and as I was reading it, it seemed that this was a foundation for the story of the murders of two young girls that took place there years ago, and the third "Rainbow Girl" who made it out alive.

What a disappointment. First of all, the book is definitely inaptly named. There was next to nothing in the book about the third girl traveling to t
Feb 13, 2020 rated it did not like it
This is enraging. I’m a West Virginian. My family is from PoCo. An upper middle class New Yorker struggling with sexuality is going to tell us about the history of our state and analyze our class and culture structure while comparing herself to murdered women. Please stop. And how the fuck did this get published. Shameful, exploitative and obnoxious.

Mar 06, 2020 rated it it was ok
Sadly there was a good case and a good story here. The author chose to stick too much to his personal life and experiences in the area. She muddled up the true crime by making it a memoir about herself.
Cindy H.
Oct 07, 2019 rated it it was ok
Thank you to NetGalley and Hachatte Books for providing me with an ARC of the true crime story - The Third Rainbow Girl. In exchange I offer my unbiased review.

Emma Copley Eisenberg was quite ambitious with this debut work. Attempting to cover much ground, this book is threefold; parts memoir, part true crime and part geographical history of Appalachia. Unfortunately for me as a reader, the overall effect seemed disjointed, messy, unfocused and unpolished. I was expecting a true crime narrative
Matt Jones
May 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
I think what I enjoyed most about this book is that it seems to subvert, or in some way, complicate the true crime genre. Referring to The Third Rainbow Girl as true crime feels like too narrow of a description. Instead, what Eisenberg has given readers is something that feels messy, but in a carefully crafted and curated way, messy in the way that ideas of violence and truth and intimacy often are. This book is about a particular crime, but it is also about much more. It is about the landscape ...more
Jessica Jeffers
Dec 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
I don't read a lot of true crime but I picked this up because I spent many summers in Pocahontas County when I was a teenager and my father moved to Hillsboro upon retiring in 2005. It's a place that holds a weird soft spot in my heart and I always appreciate whenever an empathetic light is shined on Appalachia.

Imagine my surprise to read the first chapter, in which Eisenberg describes the discovery of two bodies in the summer of 1980....and it's in a field just off the same damn road where my f
Aug 10, 2019 rated it it was ok
2 stars
Truly the strangest true crime book I have ever read. The author takes the reader on a long,rambling and at times bizarre trail of words. This book could have easily been cut in half. I wanted to know the story of the girls, their lives and the murder and not all the extra stuff jammed into the book for no real reason.
I cannot recommend this book.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for a honest review.
Jan 21, 2020 rated it did not like it
Self indulgent and unfocused at best, predatory at worst. DNF
Julie Ehlers
Feb 01, 2021 rated it liked it
The Third Rainbow Girl is well written and definitely kept me reading, but ultimately I'm just not comfortable with the type of true-crime book where the author takes a brutal murder (two, in this case) and makes it about herself. Eisenberg also sets herself the task of representing Appalachia more accurately than the media tends to, but she only lived there for about a year herself, and I just don't think that's long enough to truly know or be able to explain an entire region. It may be that th ...more
Elizabeth George
Mar 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
As always, ignore the stars. Read the review. Full disclosure: The Elizabeth George Foundation awarded a grant to Emma several years ago.

When I saw that Emma Copley Eisenberg had her book published, I bought it instantly and I wasn't disappointed. I'm a great reader of crime fiction and real crime non-fiction, but this book goes beyond what is normally considered real crime non-fiction. In that, it reminds me a little of The Spider and the Fly. Not so much in style but in the fact that it revea
This book I didn’t like. I wanted to like it, but it was everywhere. First, the murders would be talked about, then the author would talk about herself, then it would go back in the past, then the future. I just couldn’t make any sense from it. I am thoroughly disappointed.
Kyra Leseberg (Roots & Reads)
Nov 08, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: arc
2.5 stars

In the summer of 1980, an outdoor peace festival called the Rainbow Gathering was held in Pocahontas County, West Virginia.  Vicki Durian and Nancy Santomero hitched a ride across the country for the event but never made it to the gathering.  At some point on June 25, 1980 the two women were murdered and left in an isolated clearing where they were discovered by a local man late in the evening.

The killings became known as "The Rainbow Murders" and police believed the killer had to be lo
Liz Moore
Feb 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book is a fascinating blend of true crime, memoir, and history. I thought the writing was complex and often beautiful, and I am still considering the questions the author raises about class, sex, gender, prejudice, and being an outsider to and an “insider” in a particular community.
Mallory (onmalsshelf) Bartel
2 stars.

Thank you NetGalley, Hachette Books, and for the Galley and ALC in exchange for an honest review.

Note: The author identifies as queer and I am not sure of their correct pronouns, so I will be using they/their.

Synopsis wise, I will be sharing what the true crime portion of the book is about:

June 25, 1980, Pocahontas County, West Virginia: Vicki Durian, 26, and Nancy Santomero, 19, were found shot in an isolated clearing. The two women had been hitchhiking together from Arizona
Jan 16, 2020 rated it did not like it
I couldn't get through this book. There was too much background information about the author's life and the surrounding area. I just wanted to read some true crime! ...more
What a shoddy piece of investigation and prosecution. Alkire, Dale, Weiford all come across as amateur, childish idiots. It's unbelievable how Jacob Beard got convicted the first time considering the level, quality and nature of 'evidence' against him, even if he was actually guilty. And it isn't a stretch that much less has been used to convict black men for similar crimes.

The author is sensitive and articulate and comes to the project with a very definite view point, though she is no researche
The thing many reviewers didn't like about this is precisely what I did: this isn't a straight true crime book but rather, a memoir about a woman who is fixated on the events of a cold case in rural West Virginia. I don't care for true crime, and Copley Eisenberg's book kind of gets into why it is I don't. This is a book about privilege, about the ways we almost romanticize the deaths of young white girls, and about how everything we think we know about a place like Pocahontas County, West Virgi ...more
Oct 08, 2019 rated it did not like it
I received an advance digital copy of this book from the author, Hachette Books and Thanks to all for the opportunity to read and review. The opinions expressed in this review are my own.

The Third Rainbow Girl is a mess of a true crime novel. The author claims to have made substantial research but most of the book has nothing to do with the subject matter. Most of it seems to be the opinion of the author with the "wokeness" of current day and little of it to do with the murder of
Jan 20, 2020 rated it did not like it
I am a fan of true crime stories. I find them fascinating. What makes them so is not so much the crime but the motive as to why. Reading a true crime novel gives you glimpses into the mid of the killer or killers.

I found this factor to be a "weak" point with this book. It is broken into sections. The first section does showcase the murder of Vicki Durian and Nancy Santomero. After that it kind of deviates to the author and her connection to West Virginia. Which I did not mind at first but after
The Third Rainbow Girl: The long life of a double murder in the Appalachia by Emma Copley Eisenberg

January 21, 2020
Hachette Books
True crime, nonfiction
Rating: 3/5

I received a digital ARC copy of this book from NetGalley and Hachette Books in exchange for an unbiased review.

This book is more of a memoir than a true crime story. On June 25, 1980, Vicki Durian (26) from Iowa working as a HHA and Nancy Santomero (19) dropped out of a NY college to work in a Tucson thrift shop were murdered in south
Donna Hines
Jun 02, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arc, netgalley
In Rainbow Girls we have the sense of urgency and the sense of a killer getting away with murder.
The details and history are very cut and dry but each road leads to another clear and compelling piece of the puzzle.
Sadly this was the 80's and the DNA testing and evidence was not like it is today.
The fact that all evidence pointed to one man named Beard and later it was uncovered that perhaps he wasn't the killer forcing new evidence to come forward and looking into another suspect was quite inter
Sally Lindsay-briggs
This was a Goodreads gift that was well researched by the author. It included many details of the location, the history of the area in West Virginia and the Rainbow people, their people and habits. The focus of the story was the two young women that were murdered. We learned an extreme amount of minutae about all the accused men, the two trials, the defense, the prosecution, the later interviews and more than we really wanted to know and cared about the author, her boyfriends and teaching in Poc ...more
Tanya T
Mar 24, 2020 rated it did not like it
I only gave it One star because the victims in this true crime deserved to recognized and their families to have justice and closure. Other than that, I had to force myself to finish this book. It was all over the place and really dragged at times. Left you guessing in the end about who actually committed the murders of 2 hitch hiking women on their way to a Festival in a remote Appalachian community in 1980.
Wow. This book was literally excruciating to finish and is the literal definition of both privilege and hot mess.

In this book, a wealthy white girl slums it in Appalachia where despite her complete lack of direction, alcoholism, and utterly offensive cluelessnes, gets hired to "empower" poor rural girls. She is admittedly shit at this and instead of looking into why she is actually driving girls away from the program with her snotty attitude, she just drinks a lot and goes to find some boys att
Laura (crofteereader)
Jan 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is the kind of book that encourages discussion. While I was reading it, I was both fascinated and horrified by the state of my neighboring state of West Virginia. I loved the parallels that Eisenberg drew between her experiences and the murders 30 years earlier. The circumstances are so different but the toxicity of life in rural West Virginia remained. Watching the way neighbors and even family turned against each other in the wake of tragedy was astounding to me.

I listened to the audioboo
May 22, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: abandoned
I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I love the true crime genre and was excited to read this book. I did not know much about the story and was excited to learn more. Instead of reading like a true crime novel this was more like a history book/memoir. I do enjoy history and I like interesting memoirs but this book did not work for me. There are a lot of details about the history of the area which this crime took place. Unfortunately it was just too much history a
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Non Fiction Book ...: The Third Rainbow Girl (April 1-30, 2020) 21 22 May 12, 2020 09:15AM  

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Emma Copley Eisenberg is a writer of fiction, and nonfiction. Her work has appeared in Granta, The Paris Review, Tin House, the Virginia Quarterly Review, McSweeney's, The Los Angeles Review of Books, American Short Fiction, Electric Literature Recommended Reading, The New Republic, Slate, Salon, and others.

Her first book, THE THIRD RAINBOW GIRL is forthcoming from Hachette Books in January 2020.

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“I had a collection of ideas about West Virginia, but I had a hunch that they were all gross misinformation, plus none of them agreed: coal and the end of coal. Poverty and a mansion on a stripped mountain. Pickup trucks and VW buses. OxyContin and Jesus. Mother Jones and Don Blankenship. Knobby elbows and the fattest city in America.” 3 likes
“The idea of Appalachia is well understood; the real place, less so. It is a borderland, not truly of the South or the North, and West Virginia is the only state entirely within its bounds. Because of its enormous natural resources and their subsequent extraction, which has largely profited corporations based elsewhere, the relationship between the people of West Virginia and the broader United States of America is often compared to that between a colonized people and their colonizers. The programs of Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty that funneled national dollars and aid workers to central Appalachia, though founded on humanitarian ideas, also furthered this troubled interdependency.” 2 likes
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