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  • Writer's pictureNia Forrester

'Tell Me Everything: The Story of a Private Investigation' by Erika Krouse

First of all ... just, wow. 'Tell Me Everything' was ... everything.

This is one of the best reading experiences I've had in a long time. I both read and listened to this one, and have to say that not since Ben Winters' 'Underground Airlines' have I been equally awed by the writing as I have been by the narrative performance in the audiobook.

But ... about this book:

Erika Krouse is an extraordinary writer. Billed as a memoir with artistic and creative license to convey the zeitgeist of the investigation, she delivered precisely what was promised. In both the reading and listening experience, I got a sense not only of Erika as she was then, but of the world as it was. The setting was pre- #MeToo when women who spoke out about sexual harassment and violence were still almost certain to be either disbelieved or blamed. And to make matters worse, it centered on occurrences on a university campus where football was the crown jewel of the kingdom and the players were kings. Young women in the orbit of the team---be it as trainers, or fellow students---were assumed to be jersey-chasers, groupies, or, even if neither of those things, sexually available to the players at their whim; because even without consent, there would be no consequences. In one particularly egregious example of this, a young woman, passed out in her own bed, at a party that was meant to be a girls' night, is raped by almost 10 players, held immobile by some while sexually assaulted by others.

After the DA mind-bogglingly declines to prosecute, enter Erika, who at the time was an impoverished writer of minor acclaim casting about in temp positions trying to figure out her life. One of Erika's greatest assets is her uncanny ability to tease out confidences from strangers. A chance encounter with an attorney in a bookstore where he confesses to her something he has told no one else leads him to hire her on the spot as a private investigator, charged primarily with interviewing witnesses. After a few months, when the sexual assault case at the university comes up, Erika is assigned to find and interview witnesses, so a Title IX case can be made against the school. She accepts hesitantly, because of her own history of sexual trauma, but before long she is immersed in seeking justice and acknowledgment for the women who were assaulted. And along the way, she realizes that through this case, she's also seeking acknowledgment and justice for herself and all she suffered as a child.

This memoir was engaging for so many reasons: first of all it forces readers to immediately feel a stake in the story and outcome, and to be intrigued by Erika's uncommon talent for making people share cofidences. Later, you become even more invested, in not only seeing her unravel the layers of deception and avoidance of responsibility for the rape(s) of the young women, but in unraveling her own mother's reluctance to admit culpability for what happened to Erika as a young girl. Finally, you can't help but root for Erika who, as an adult woman, almost heartbreakingly attributes some of her best qualities to her trauma and refuses to accept herself as deserving of love. Part of you wants to tell her that she is more than the sum of the worst things that happened to her. Then, you follow her through the journey toward making that discovery herself.

Also ... achingly beautiful writing. Not that common in a memoir, but to call it a literary work is not an overstatement. So much heart; and countless insightful moments. Highly recommended. If you read one memoir this year, this should be it.

My rating: ⭑⭑⭑⭑⭑+

Just go ahead and buy it:

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