I Will Find You

By Joanna Connors. (Atlantic Monthly Press, 256 pages, $25.)

In this painful memoir, a reporter at the Cleveland Plain Dealer (and earlier at the Minneapolis Star) leads us through the details of her victimization at the hands of a rapist and her journey to rebuild her shattered sense of self after the crime.

Joanna Connors was 30 years old when she walked into a darkened theater on an Ohio university campus and had a knife placed to her throat. She was assaulted repeatedly by a stranger who, thanks to Connors' quick reporting of the crime, was caught by police before he could rape again. Her tormentor was tried and convicted and sent into the Ohio prison system.

Connors buried the psychological scars of the attack for decades under layers of depression, denial, shame and post-traumatic stress. But 21 years later, a single moment on another university campus triggers her need to face her fears and learn about the man who changed her forever.

Her quest to re-create details of the trial and uncover her monster's back story takes us down a path littered with investigative and legal shortcomings, social injustices and racial polarities. Connors reports her findings in a journalistic and almost dispassionate voice. Yet her commentary is punctuated with drama: her family's talk of hiring a hit man, discovery of her rapist's unspeakable upbringing, and introductions to some of the damaged characters that shaped this man's world. She travels to the prisons that held her attacker and finally, in a cathartic undertaking, she returns to the scene of the crime.

Readers come away with a sense that, through researching and writing "I Will Find You," Connors has been able to banish some demons and start down a healthy path — one that leads to finding her own new self.

Her book is a study in healing and courage and should prove to be a resource for many of those touched by these terrible crimes.

GINNY GREENE, copy editor

The Kennedy Wives: Triumph and Tragedy in America's Most Public Family

By Amber Hunt and David Batcher. (Lyons Press, 352 pages, $16.95.)

As the 20th century fades into memory, so does the Kennedy family. The children of Jack, Bobby and Teddy are old enough now to be grandparents themselves, and although a number of them followed their fathers into public life, none have achieved anything like the prominence of that charismatic trio of brothers — and their ambitious family patriarch.

Yet there was much more to the Kennedy mystique than the doomed brothers. In this taut, brisk volume, newly issued in paperback, Amber Hunt and Minneapolis author David Batcher look at the Kennedy dynasty through the eyes of the women who were an essential part of its myth. Their glamour, intelligence, toughness — and ability to turn a blind eye to spousal misdeeds — were crucial factors in creating the image of a rollicking clan of happy political warriors.

Drawing exhaustively on published work and original research in the Kennedy archives, the authors crisply tell the tales of Rose, Jackie, Ethel, Joan and Vicki, Ted's second wife. Wildly different in character, the five women nonetheless are bound by common threads of dutiful service, grace under pressure and devotion to family and faith.

Rose, Ethel and Vicki are forceful personalities who maintain their own identities and gleefully trade sharp elbows with the men. Jackie and Joan, publicly dutiful, privately mourn the slow dissolution of their marriages as their husbands immerse themselves in affairs of state and sex.

The authors' approach is journalistic rather than literary; there's a rather relentless accumulation of facts, and precious little attempt to tie them all together in a grand theme. But that's fine, in this reader's eyes. The authors consistently choose fascinating tidbits for their tale. For example, they chronicle Jackie's early shock at her husband's compulsive womanizing: "After the first year together, Jackie was wandering around looking like the survivor of an airplane crash," according to a family friend.

Perhaps you're interested enough in the Kennedy women to read the many books about, or written by, each one of them. If not, this single volume should satisfy any but the deepest curiosity.

JOHN REINAN, west metro reporter