The basic idea of Red River Girl by Joanna Jolly appealed to me a lot. Essentially it looks at the way native indigenous people and particularly women, have been treated in Canada. The other thread in this is the case of Tina Fontaine, an indigenous teenage girl, who went missing in 2014. The author had access to both the police and their case regarding Tina’s disappearance. It was the case that finally brought a far deeper consciousness of the problem not only in the native community but also in the wider (and white) public. For me there was a feel of the Lawrence case in the UK in this.
Tina’s case was handled mainly by Sergeant John O’Donovan. O’Donovan emigrated to Canada from Ireland at 28 and never intended to become a policeman. It felt to me that he was not part of the core establishment in some ways. Certainly there had been plenty of deaths of native people, particularly female and young, which the police had taken little interest in. This case bothered O’Donovan and it also raised awareness of the topic generally in the eyes of the public at large.
Red River Girl looks at the general treatment of indigenous females in some detail. It quickly becomes apparent that there is a long history of ignoring crimes against native women generally. Frequently the blame is simply placed on their “lifestyles” and not investigated. Given that these crimes include murder and rape it amazed me that there had not been far more outcry earlier.
Tina’s murder was a sad story. Family issues coupled with teenage life and angst seem to have left her angry and vulnerable. The police find a credible suspect quite early on. However there is a lack of real evidence against him. Those who expect a satisfactory crime thriller will not find it in this. The whole police case is fraught with difficulties. Given that this is a real and powerful story at times it’s sad that the police case is not the strongest.
On balance I’m very pleased I read Red River Girl. The story needed telling. In my simple opinion Canadian society seems to have been disinterested in crimes against native women. This case appears to have changed that at least. I’d prefer not to give anything else away as others will find this a worthwhile read. Frankly I’m not quite sure how to rate this. Indeed I’m not sure who the target audience is. My feeling is that if the topic interests you then it should be a good read. It is a little detailed in places however I kept reading happily. A sad story but one that needed telling.
Note – I received an advance digital copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair review