This review is difficult for me to write. It might also be difficult for you to read. Try to imagine, then, how difficult it must have been for Joanna Connors to write I Will Find You.
That title is a perfect encapsulation of the book’s theme, structure, elegance, horror and grace. In 1984, when she was a 30-year-old reporter for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Connors was raped at knife-point by a stranger. When he was finished with her, the rapist warned, “If you go to the police, I will find you.” That is also what she decided twenty years after the assault when she went looking for the rapist, determined to understand how their lives intersected: I will find you.
Four words: first a threat, then a quest.
By the time Joanna was ready to track the man down, he had died, so she dug deeper and traveled farther to find his sisters, only to learn that they too had been sexually assaulted, as had their brother, in a generations-deep family history of abuse and violence. As Publishers Weekly put it in a starred review of the book, “Connors’s astute reflections on race, gender, and the personal plight of victimhood make this book a must-read.”
I know Joanna. Reading the manuscript, I was horrified to learn what happened to her in 1984, and awestruck by the honesty and power of this riveting, terrifying, heartbreaking and utterly unsentimental account.
If you know someone who has been raped, read this book and try to understand. If you yourself have been raped, give this book to those who love you and help them understand. If you are a woman, you will understand her thought, “This is it. My rape. I knew it was coming. Every woman knows. And now here it is. My turn.” If you are a man, you will understand what it’s like to live with that expectation.
“Raw and unnerving . . . If a reader is looking for the most candid, most powerful true book about rape, let Connors’ be the one.” —Booklist (starred review)
“Powerful and compelling, the book is a highly personal examination of the volatile intersection of race, poverty, and violence. The author insightfully reflects on the idea that the greatest monster anyone, including victims of violent crime, must face is the monster within. A courageous and unsettlingly forthright memoir of overcoming trauma.” —Kirkus Reviews
“’I will find you’ vowed the man who raped Joanna Connors should she tell anyone. In this perturbing, irresistible memoir, Connors writes that her attacker’s threat haunted her for the next two decades—a diabolical punishment, she learned, inflicted on most rape victims. ‘Why do we feel this shame?’ she wondered. ‘What do we do with it?’ Connors answers these questions with wry eloquence and surprising compassion in this magnificent, necessary, unflinchingly honest book.” —Jon Krakauer, author of Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town
“Joanna Connors’ unflinching attempt to understand the circumstances behind the most brutal and humiliating moments of her life makes for a powerful and compelling read. Ultimately, Connors unravels the raw and disturbing details, not just of her attack and young man who forever changed her life, but she also gets to the heart of some unspeakable truths regarding race, incarceration, and the culture of sexual violence in modern America.” —Gilbert King, author of the Pulitzer prizewinning, Devil in the Grove
“Is it possible to call the story of a violent rape and its haunting aftermath a thing of beauty? In the hands of Joanna Connors, this lucid, powerful memoir becomes its own form of redemption, as a seasoned reporter turns her gaze on her own life and that of her rapist’s. I found this to be a profoundly moving, important and, yes, beautiful book.” —Dani Shapiro, author of Still Writing
“A hard-to-read book that is impossible to put down. I am in awe of Connors’s courage and inspiring compassion. A testament to the power of forgiveness and a hard-earned grace.” —Thrity Umrigar, author of The Space Between Us
“At a time when rape culture threatens the lives of too many American women, journalist Joanna Connors’s I Will Find You is a sobering, masterful, and meticulously researched exploration of the crime but with a twist: Connors plumbs the depths of her attacker and the culture of violence that made him a rapist. In giving a voice both to her own tragedy and to her perpetrator’s, she contributes boldly to the conversation surrounding one of the country’s most pressing and little-explored social problems. Understanding radiates from every page in prose that is crisp and full of unexpected notes of grace.” —Beth Macy, New York Times bestselling author of Factory Man: How One Furniture Maker Battled Offshoring, Stayed Local—and Helped Save an American Town