The acclaimed author of American Dirt reveals the devastating effects of a shocking tragedy in this landmark true crime book—the first ever to look intimately at the experiences of both the victims and their families.
A Rip in Heaven is Jeanine Cummins’ story of a night in April, 1991, when her two cousins Julie and Robin Kerry, and her brother, Tom, were assaulted on the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge, which spans the Mississippi River just outside of St. Louis. When, after a harrowing ordeal, Tom managed to escape the attackers and flag down help, he thought the nightmare would soon be over. He couldn’t have been more wrong. Tom, his sister Jeanine, and their entire family were just at the beginning of a horrific odyssey through the aftermath of a violent crime, a world of shocking betrayal, endless heartbreak, and utter disillusionment. It was a trial by fire from which no family member would emerge unscathed.
On the night of April 4, 1991, during a spring-break family vacation to St. Louis, Cummins's 19-year-old brother, Tom, and his two female cousins were attacked while walking on the abandoned Old Chain of Rocks Bridge. During the attack, the girls were raped; afterward, all three were pushed off the bridge by the four assailants. Tom survived; the girls did not. Cummins presents a mesmerizing, highly balanced memoir of the events, writing in the third person to give readers "an intimate knowledge of each facet of the story." She introduces her own family, referring to herself by her childhood nickname, and then does the same for each of the assailants, thoughtfully painting an in-depth portrait of each character without ever passing judgment. Moreover, she takes what could be cold, dry factual information from "court documents, police records, electronic media" and her own interviews and deftly weaves them into a compelling, novel-like account. She explores the family's initial horror over the police holding Tom as a suspect for this crime that made national headlines. (One of the attackers wound up with a 30-year plea; the others are currently on death row.) For someone so closely related to a crime victim to strike such a fine balance in chronicling it is a highly admirable feat. Cummins's noble account will ultimately draw readers into all sides of the story. 8 pages of photos not seen by PW. (On sale June 1)
Don’t forget the Victims
Tom’s trip through the criminal justice system shows the injustice and power play in law enforcement. It was appalling how these officers quickly judged, dismissed and enacted their own cruelty. The victims (including Tom) became lesser characters while the Attackers took center stage. But the family held together although forever changed.
Cummins brings you up close to a terrible tragedy. One of the best written books I’ve ever read. It could happen to anyone.