Cover Image: Highway of Tears

Highway of Tears

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I did not have my kindle address set up and could not figure out how to send it to my device. I have since resolved the issues.
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This was a very interesting look at the open cases of missing indigenous women and girls along Highway 16 in Canada.  That these case were looked at with preconceived ideas because of the victims race and how they had lived their lives.  That because they were known to the police because of run ins with the law the preconceived notion that they were just runaways, or that they would show up hindered the investigations.  This was a book that  showed every country has the same issues when it comes to preconceived notions of victims because of race, or lifestyle, or  other situations that cause an investigation into a crime against them to not be fully accepted until they are either found dead or never surface again.  This book was very enlightening into the issue in Canada. A very good read for anyone that is interested in criminal justice.
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I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.   Thank you NetGalley.

What a powerful, heartwrenching book.    
Highway of Tears is an important book that should be read by everyone.
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Highway of Tears is a timely book by journalist Jessica McDiarmid that focuses on a stretch of road in Northern British Columbia that connects the communities of Prince Rupert and Prince George. Once known as Highway 16, it is now referred to as the Highway of Tears, where hundreds of Indigenous women and girls have gone (and continue to go) missing and/or wound up murdered. McDiarmid focuses on a large number of victims, telling their stories, and humanizing the horrific statistics. Unfortunately, at times it felt like there were TOO MANY stories being told, making the book feel a bit cobbled together. That said, this is an important topic that could certainly use more attention.
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A harrowing catalogue of girls and their families, unsolved cases of murder and missing (predominantly) indigenous girls along the Canadian highways. The criminal investigations are not covered in detail but McDiarmid must be congratulated on taking this assignment albeit the enormity of the task that lay before her. 

Thanks to the publisher for the ARC. All the best wishes for the victims' families, hope they get answers, and at least some culprits are brought to justice in the coming years, making up for the lost decades.
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Very well written and interesting story about the disappearances of many indigenous women. The flow was great and the details added to the images I discerned from the story. I recommend this book to anyone with an interest in learning about the culture of the people and the area surrounding Highway 16. 

Thank you to Netgalley and the publishers for providing a copy of this book to read and review.  Opinions expressed in the review are my own.
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Well written true crime book on a subject that has been ignored for decades, the murders of indigenous women and girls along a remote highway in northern British Columbia.  The author clearly has done her homework and researched these murders and disappearances in great detail and turned them into a coherent series of events that are both disturbing and outrageous.  The interviews of he victims' families are heartbreaking and lead to more questions than answers.  One thing is clear, the lack of energy and resources from local law enforcement to solve any of these murders points to the systemic devaluing of indigenous women within society.  I hope to read more from this author in the future.  I highly recommend this book to those interested in social justice, indigenous communities and unsolved murders.
***I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.***
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Facts of the MMIWG (Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls) are presented very well in this heartbreaking account of the deaths and disappearances of indigenous women in British Columbia's northern section. Perhaps a bit more editing/re-writing is necessary, but the message is delivered well and accurately.
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I appreciated this investigation by journalist Jessica McDiarmid about the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women along Highway 16 in British Columbia, dubbed the Highway of Tears. There's a lot of information included and presented in a well-organized, readable manner.
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I enjoyed the book. It was an excellent eye-opener that shows us how big of a roll that race can play in the investigation of a crime. However I found the book a bit jumpy at times. I would be reading, think I missed something and go back to reread only to realize the author shifted thoughts/ideas. That was a bit confusing and off-putting. But all and all it was an interesting book and I would recommend it to other true crime reading friends.
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This was a very heavy read for me. Over the years, I listened to podcasts that briefly covered the Highway of Tears. I wanted more information and then I stumbled across this book. A must read for any true crime junkie.
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Highway of Tears: A True Story of Racism, Indifference, and the Pursuit of Justice for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls is just that - a true story of the individuals and organizations involved with the Highway of Tears. The women and girls who have vanished or been murdered along 415 remote miles of Highway 16 coined as the Highway of Tears are so numerous and poorly investigated/documented (by officers involved and the community) that there isn't even a firm number on how many are connected to it. An exceedingly high number are Indigenous as well as exceedingly high rate of being unsolved. Author Jessica McDiarmid has done a fantastic (albeit difficult) job of combining, preserving and honoring the stories of the victims of the Highway of Tears for the current and future generations to read/witness.

This has been near continuous events spanning decades... DECADES. I'll fully admit that I wasn't aware of such a heart wrenching tale of so many compounding factors working against not only the victims but anyone working to find out what happened to them. I can't help but think of how this would have played out here in the States - I would like to think that it would have never been this tragically bad but I can't honestly answer that. I cannot even fathom what the families and communities have gone through this whole time and most have still received no definitive answers. I will say that until you have kids of your own you don't really understand the emotions that come with being a parent. Getting to know the stories of the victims through the family members and those closest to them really makes this book hit home.

This novel is HEAVY - both in sheer details, information and topic. It's a true crime novel that reads like a documentary. I think that if the chapters were more broken up to cover each victim it would have a more organized feel. I'm not sure if the captions for the photos just weren't in English in the copy that I received or if they were just place holders - I would've loved to know more about the pictures included in the novel. As I said earlier - this novel is heavy and it contains topics some people might be sensitive about. I would suggest this novel to people who enjoy documentaries, true crime and history. Thank you to Atria Books & NetGalley for the opportunity to read this book and have my eyes opened to this extremely heart breaking reality.
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Highway of Tears was set up to be a really great book. The premise was great and the research was really good, but the flow was completely off. Most of the time I felt like I was reading a research paper, and it was completely disjointed.
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Oh, wow. I don't know where to start.

This book took me a while, but not for lack of interest. It's just a hard book. I don’t mean it’s difficult to grasp—McDiarmid has written an incredibly accessible account here, and riveting from start to finish—but it is anything but light and easy. It’s long and difficult, but absolutely necessary reading. 

This book focuses on the missing and murdered Indigenous women of the stretch of road between Prince George and Prince Rupert in Northern British Columbia. The Highway of Tears. I went into this knowing little about the Highway of Tears. I first heard about it on the podcast My Favorite Murder. It seemed impossible to me that hundreds of women could just die or disappear and not have more people talking about it, not have heard about it everywhere. Turns out it's not impossible at all. It's very real and very upsetting, and it's happening still.

It's been going on for decades and I had no idea just how little was being done for the victims, for the families, and for the communities. McDiarmid's voice is steady. She doesn't embellish. She gives you the facts and makes it clear how seriously society and the faculties in place meant to help have so severely failed these women and their families. I'm so angry for them, and so angry at everything that has not changed since this started. It's making it difficult to review this, difficult to put my thoughts into words, to channel that anger and frustration. It's a fraction, if that, of what the families have experienced after decades without answers, decades of people just not caring because these are indigenous women and no one bats an eye when another one just drops off the face of the planet, only to show up again dead, if the families are lucky enough to get that closure at all. I understand that resources are limited and that no amount of investigating is enough for a family seeking answers, but there is still much to be done. The resources available aren't being properly allocated to these cases, and the more bodies that pile up, the more almost...normalized isn't the right word, but there is a certain amount of apathy that seems to follow when after a cursory look into another disappearance bears no new information. It's as if there is this mindset, on some level, behind the disappearances that says when an Indigenous woman disappears on Highway 16, it's "just another Aboriginal girl." She must have been doing something, drinking or hitchhiking or whatever, as if that excuses not looking for them, as if that justifies whatever happened. But I'm just ranting at this point.

I want everyone to pick this book up, to read this, to stay angry for these women. McDiarmid put a ton of work into this, interviewing families to make their stories known and to learn about dead and missing, making the reader see them as more than just another name, another number, another missing girl. It's very compelling literature as a whole, even if it is so completely heartbreaking.

Final thoughts, I guess. At the heart of this, it's good research, it’s good writing, and it is dang good journalism. The only reason it isn't a five-star read is that it could do with some reorganizing. There were moments where it could be a bit disorienting shifting from hard information, facts, etc. to narrative, or jarring changes in scene. It wasn't enough to take me out of the story, but it would benefit from a little more flow.

Thank you very muchly to NetGalley, Jessica McDiarmid, and Atria Books for this free copy in exchange for an honest review.
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It isn't terribly often that you read a book that you feel is really necessary, that you want to press on others and say, "Here. You need to know about this." Jessica McDiarmid has written such a book in Highway of Tears, a look into the disappearances and deaths of young women that took place along a major roadway. 

While McDiarmid is clearly and rightly concerned with justice being done to these young women and their families, her account is an evenhanded one. She examines the economic, historical, racial, and social underpinnings of the victims lives, noting that the RCMP often focused too hard on factors like the juvenile records of the victims, their "risky" behaviors (like hitchhiking), and race. She contrasts the handling of cases involving First Nations members and those that center on blond haired, blue eyed women. Despite this, she also illuminates the individual passion, work ethic, and skill of many members of law enforcement. 

She takes readers into the heart of the loss and pain associated with these disappearances. The not knowing is the worst of all. She describes one family's experience this way: "Otherwise banal occurrences take on new, frightening significance. Sitting at a kitchen table and hearing a cougar scream off in the distance - is that her, out there, needing help? The man who lived nearby, who was always a bit of a weird fellow - was it him? ... It was a thousand imaginings, a thousand stories crashing around at once."

McDiarmid also tells many stories. She discusses how policing works in the Territories, how even major case squads often failed, how victims were placed in a hierarchy, and how various organizations formed to look for justice. Of course, ultimately, even justice won't undo the pain and suffering associated with these events - though it is hoped it might keep them from occurring again. .A worthwhile title for understanding the mystery itself, but also for understanding the vulnerability of women in the world, the workings of law enforcement, First Nations history, and the way that the search for truth and justice can unite many individuals across cultures and years.
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First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Jessica McDiarmid, and Atria Books for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

There is a stretch of road in Northern British Columbia that connects the communities of Prince Rupert and Prince George. Formally known as Highway 16, the road has become known as the Highway of Tears, as scores of women—many indigenous— have gone missing or been murdered along it over the years. While well-known to locals, Jessica McDiarmid seeks to shed light on the issues here for the rest of the world, as Canada wrestles to address the thousands of missing and murdered indigenous women in the country, a group that has long been ignored. McDiarmid, a local of the town of Smithers, returned to her roots to explore the Highway of Tears and offer some of it victims the face they deserve. In telling the stories of these women’s pasts and the time leading up to their disappearances, McDermid seeks not to make them simple statistics, but victims with a voice who cannot speak up for themselves. With small Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) detachments, police efforts have not been what they should and cases are growing dust or going cold before any substantial leads can be developed. McDiarmid posits that there has been a difference in coverage and activity when the victim is caucasian, rather than indigenous, which might also tell the underlying narrative of what is (not) going on. While McDiarmid does not come out and say that there is a single killer on the loose, she offered examples about how there are surely connection crimes over the years, with culpability likely long-since passed. What can be done for the family and friends of these women whose lives were snuffed out too soon? The Federal Government created an inquiry, though even its commissioners have claimed that it is not being run in the traditional indigenous manner. McDiarmid has not answers and cannot assuage the pain families feel, but she has definitely shed light on this national embarrassment, as Canada tries to address all that has been going on. Highly recommended to those who enjoy true crime, as well as the reader interested in a unique piece within the larger non-fiction family.

While I had heard of the Highway of Tears, I was not aware of the extent of the deaths. This book shed some much-needed light onto the topic and helped to educate me about the issue, as well as some of the victims. The book seeks less to offer blame for those in authority than it does to show that there are so many broken cogs in the wheel. Racial discrimination surely plays a role in the police investigating, but resources are stretched so thin and the number of cases continues to grow. These were not an isolated few deaths, as the body continue to go missing and pile up, but little is being done to stop the ongoing safety concerns in the region, many of which McDiarmid addresses in the book. With photos to support the stories she tells, the book heightens its impact with the curious reader. A series of mid-length chapters address numerous issues with the overall investigation, as well as biographical pieces on the families, all of which pulls the tale closer together. Powerfully written and delivered, the reader will surely want to know a great deal more, tapping into McDiarmid’s vast list of cited sources. This is not a book to be missed by those who want to know more, either to educate themselves or advocate those in positions of authority to take action. 

Kudos, Madam McDiarmid, for this wonderful piece. I will have to read a little more on the topic to get a handle.
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"The highway of tears is a lonesome road that runs across a lonesome land."

The plight of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada has increasingly been in the spotlight of late, deservingly so. One relative of a victim quoted in journalist Jessica McDiarmid's Highway of Tears calls it "Canada's dirtiest secret." The statistics are staggering:

"Nationwide, Indigenous women accounted for more than 11 per cent of the total number of missing females, despite making up just 4 per cent of Canada’s female population. Similarly, 16 per cent of female homicide victims were Indigenous women. And, while rates of homicide of non-Indigenous women had been steadily declining since 1980, that of Indigenous women remained constant, leading to their representing an ever-higher proportion of women murdered in Canada."

The Highway of Tears is Highway 16, a 725 kilometer-long stretch of road running across a swath of British Columbia. The disappearances or murders of more than 30 women and girls have been connected to it, the majority of these Indigenous. McDiarmid looks at the highway not only to examine what crimes have transpired on it, but as a lens for examining the violence against Canada's Indigenous population as a whole:

"It is a microcosm of a national tragedy—and travesty... A 2014 Statistics Canada report found Indigenous people face double the rate of violence of non-Indigenous people. Indigenous women and girls in particular ... are six times more likely to be killed than non-Indigenous women. They face a rate of serious violence twice as high as that of Indigenous men and nearly triple that of non-Indigenous women. This is partly because they are more likely to confront risk factors such as mental illness, homelessness and poverty, which afflict Indigenous people at vastly disproportionate rates—the ugly, deadly effects of colonialism past and present. But even when controlling for those factors, Indigenous women and girls face more violence than anyone else. Put simply, they are in greater danger solely because they were born Indigenous and female. As one long-time activist put it, “Every time we walk out our doors, it’s high risk.”

The magnitude of this issue can't be overstated. Canada has started addressing it recently, identifying this disproportional violence against the Indigenous as an "epidemic" and "genocide". This racism is so deeply ingrained though, as McDiarmid highlights how much existing bias has to be overcome. Occasionally a white woman would go missing along the Highway of Tears, with the press and police devoting markedly more attention to her case than to those of the Indigenous women, adding insult to injury for the families of the missing and murdered. The author identifies a clear “hierarchy of female victims” as perceived by both media and law enforcement.

Sometimes there are even truly horrifying open secrets demonstrating how the Indigenous are further victimized. One judge cruised for Indigenous young women and girls to pay for sex, the very same ones who appeared before him in court. He knew exactly who was vulnerable and could be exploited, and McDiarmid says that rumors long circulated before he was finally arrested. Both the racism and the crimes are endlessly layered and intertwined.

What McDiarmid does so excellently is to tell the stories of these women's lives before they came to an end somewhere along the highway. In this it felt very similar to Robert Kolker's excellent Lost Girls, in that both depict the lives and potentials of the murdered women before they fell victim to societal factors that led to their slipping through the cracks and becoming vulnerable. The women here aren't sex workers, but many did become involved with drugs and seedier circumstances due to a myriad of sad factors, but their families and loved ones were optimistic that they had the time and drive to turn things around. Those chances were taken from them.

"Too often, these deaths and disappearances continue to be seen as the result of the victim’s wrongdoing rather than as what they truly are: an ongoing societal failure."

McDiarmid introduces their families, who provide fuller portraits of who these women were, bringing them to life vibrantly. This makes difficult reading though, because the families' pain is massive and ongoing. She also sketches out some of the historical background around why Indigenous people have faced hardships over time.

As troubling as it is to read, it's also where McDiarmid creates emphasis through the strength of her writing. Describing parents devastated when their children were taken to residential schools, and who never recovered from the loss even when they were returned, she writes, "Alcohol filled the chasm left by the eastbound train." These reverberations of pain would be felt through the generations. This is a crucial topic, handled sensitively and affectingly, and as tough as it is, it's too important to look away from.

Although a minority of the murders had strong suspects or clearer circumstances, there's no theory offered about who might've taken the lives of the rest. I can understand why an author wouldn't want to speculate, but after working with all of this information, I would've liked to hear more of what she thought, to get more analysis in this sense. On the other hand, she relates statistics and key information about this epidemic of violence against Canada's Indigenous so well that she makes the message incredibly impacting. That couldn't have been easy to do, considering the sheer volume of information and cases here.

And the women's lives are strikingly told, preserving and sharing something about who they were and were becoming, quietly emphasizing the heartbreak of this troubling epidemic.
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Well-researched and gut wrenching, this novel explores the disappearances of multiple Indigenous women along a stretch of Canadian highway. Focusing on individuals, the author does an amazing job of bringing these women's stories to life, fleshing them out beyond being just "numbers" or "cases", whilst also exploring the plight of violence against Indigenous women in Canada and beyond. 

A special thank you to Netgalley for providing me with a free advanced copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.
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Let me start with what I really enjoyed about this book. It was very well researched and it approached a very important subject with a great deal of respect. There was a lot of care and attention  put into retelling the stories of these victims. We generally don’t see that much attention given to the victims in true crime, even for cases that are still unsolved. However, I felt like this book did a really good job of highlighting the lives of the women who unfortunately went missing. The book presented a strong analysis of the treatment of the indigenous since colonial times, and the author reasoned these are the things that may have made the women targets. I appreciated the analysis and felt the author had strong arguments.

Now what didn’t work for me was the organization. I found that it often jumped from idea to idea with no real transition. It would take me three to five paragraphs to understand why the story shifted and how the new idea was tied to the previous idea. Unfortunately, this really hampered the flow of the story. Also, the statistics that were provided were interesting, but I felt like I had to read them over a few times to understand what was being said. I think if they had been presented differently, say with a table of some kind, it would have been a lot easier to follow. 

That being said, this is a highly moving story and I would still recommend reading it. It is a highly important story that needs to be told and I think the author did an amazing job crafting the stories of these women. It's been one of the best sources on this topic that I have found so if you can look past the few flaws, then it is worth it.
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Since the 1970s, thousands of Indigenous teenaged girls and women along Highway 16 in British Columbia have gone missing and been murdered. The true number isn’t known. In Highway of Tears, Jessica McDiarmid blends heartbreaking stories about the missing and murdered and their families’ struggles to find answers with the many mistakes and prejudices that lead to this human rights crisis. This book will rightly make readers sob and burn with anger.

Many of the chapters of Highway of Tears center on individual cases of teenagers and women. They are horribly similar. Young girls with promise make plans to visit, go to a party, or just go to work by hitchhiking and are never heard from again. Sometimes they just vanish. Other times, their bodies are found months or years later. Most of the time, the missing are labeled as runaways and little investigation was done. Their families advocate for years to try and get media attention and government action for the missing girls and women. Later in the book, McDiarmid talks about multiple commissions and taskforces that reviewed the original work by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. In many cases, there is frustratingly little information to go on. Only a few cases are ever solved.

About a third of the way into Highway of Tears, McDiarmid turns her attention to the glaring question of how so many girls and women could have gone missing and never had their cases solved. She discusses the long history of racism against Indigenous people and the systematic way that the British and Canadian governments have stripped them of land, economic opportunity, legal rights, language, culture, and children (by taking them to abusive residential schools or by putting them into the foster system). She reveals the deeply, almost insurmountably antagonistic relationship between the RCMP and Indigenous communities; sometimes the name of the RCMP in the Indigenous languages translates to “war makers” or “those who take us away.” When Mounties are transferred from community to community, they never get a chance to get to know the people they serve or learn to banish deep rooted prejudices about Indigenous people.

It’s only recently, after years of advocacy, that the Canadian government has started to devote resources to the Highway of Tears cases—years, decades too late for justice. In some instances, perpetrators are found to have died in the years since they committed their crimes. The lack of attention paid by the RCMP and the Canadian government is especially galling when McDiarmid mentions the case of Nicole Hoar, a Caucasian woman who went missing on the highway, who received exponentially more attention in the media and from the police. There are good investigators in the RCMP, who care about the missing, that McDiarmid highlights for their efforts to find answers. But it’s hard not to condemn the entire RCMP for years of failure to help Indigenous people.

Highway of Tears tells a history that needs to be widely known. What happened to these girls, women, their families, and their people should never have happened. Indigenous lives matter. All lives matter, of course, but it’s clear that Indigenous lives have been treated as though they don’t, and McDiarmid makes it clear that a lot still needs to change in order to make the region safer: better transportation, better communication, better investigations. Most of all, the racism and prejudice towards Indigenous people has to change. And yet, Highway of Tears ends on a chord (not just a note) of mixed resignation, healing, and hope that things may be different in the future. Some of the families, those who learned what happened to their missing, have found a measure of peace. We can only hope that all the thousands of other mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunts, and uncles will also get the answers to their questions, and be able to heal, too.
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