Picks and Pans Review: A Rip in Heaven

updated 06/14/2004 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/14/2004 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Jeanine Cummins

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In the early hours of April 5,1991, a brutal attack near St. Louis left two of Cummins's cousins dead—and her family emotionally scarred. Julie and Robin Kerry, then 20 and 19, were gang raped and shoved off a bridge to their deaths in the raging Mississippi; Tom Cummins, 19, the author's brother, was beaten but survived the horrific fall. Then, with the case making sensational headlines across the country, the St. Louis police arrested Tom as a suspect in the murders. The nightmare changed course that June, when the real assailants were arrested, tried and found guilty (and three of the four were sent to death row). Tom, however, remained under a cloud that obscured his status as a victim and left him awash in anger and guilt. In this forceful memoir Cummins recounts the wrenching drama in a straightforward, expertly paced narrative that reads like a novel. Writing the book "as a love letter to my cousins, as a voice for my brother," she shows how the quest for justice was nearly as traumatic as the crimes themselves—and how her family survived the heartbreaking process by pulling together and keeping the girls' memories alive.

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