Missoula book cover 2

Krakauer is one of my top 5 favorite authors. I love his work. Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town is his only so-so book.

Krakauer has a writing formula: deeply investigate something extraordinary.

Into Thin Air: covers the most deadly Mt. Everest disaster of its day
Into the Wild: follows an unusual hermit who fails to live off the land in Alaska
Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith: covers polygamy in an American small town
Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman: covers a superstar athlete who dies in Afganistan

You get the pattern: these are pretty unusual people.

Therefore, if he wanted to write about rape, then he should have written about an extraordinary case of rape and dug deep on that.

Example: the Suryanelli rape case in India, where a girl was allegedly lured with the promise of marriage and kidnapped. She was allegedly raped by 37 of the 42 accused persons, over a period of 40 days. It's going to India's supreme court. It's a HUGE case that would have been perfect for Krakauer to explore.

If he preferred something in the USA, he could have found a high-profile rape case to focus on. For example, he could have focused on the 1993 rape and murder of 16-year-old Elizabeth Pena and 14-year-old Jennifer Ertman in Houston, Texas. Of the six people convicted, five were sentenced to death. Now that's a Krakauer-like story to sink his teeth into.
Moreover, he could have used that case as a springboard to talk about the general problem of rape in America.

Instead of doing what he normally does (laser-focus on person/event/group), he takes the shotgun-blast approach: he covers MANY rape cases in Missoula. As horrific as they all are, it's sad to say that none of them count as truly extraordinary (like the two rape cases I mention above). Instead, they are pretty straightforward rape cases, with all the headaches, trama, and nuances that such cases have.

Besides the graphic detail (which is useful), there's a lot of he-said-she-said, which would have been fine if he had focused on one extraordinary/famous case, but when you're covering lots of rape cases, it gets a bit repetitive.

Here are some analogies to help explain why this book departs from his other books; imagine if:

- Into Thin Air had been about tales of hikers who die in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.
- Into the Wild had been about many random people who try to live off the land - and some succeed and some don't.
- Where Men Win the Glory had been about the many soldiers who tragically die in Iraq due to friendly fire.

Such books would be informative (as Krakauer always is), but they would lack that laser-focus that Krakauer excels out. They would lack a clear protagonist and an extraordinary event to cover. That's why "Missoula" isn't as engrossing as Krakauer's other books, which all deserve 4-5 stars.

I hope that Krakauer's next book goes back to his tradition of finding extremely unusual people/situations and delving deep into them.

AUDIOBOOK: I listened to the audiobook, which was read by a woman, which is unusual. Usually, most audiobooks are read my someone with the same gender as the author - and sometimes even the same accent (e.g., Michio Kaku's books have a man with a Japanese accent read it). Perhaps the audiobook producer thought it would be more effective for a woman's voice read about rape. Regardless, she's an outstanding narrator.


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