Cover Image: Catch the Sparrow

Catch the Sparrow

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Member Reviews

This had peaked my interest because it is based on a true crime. However,  Catch the Sparrow fell flat for me. Yes, it is a heartbreaking story but the presentation of this could have been better. It seemed a bit self-indulgent.


Please check trigger warnings: rape, abuse, sexual assault, murder.


My rating is a 2.5 stars 
Thanks to NetGalley and publishers for this eARC for an honest review.
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The blurb promoted the author as a sister to the victim, however, that is a bit of a stretch.  The author has little history with the victim and I found them uninteresting.
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Catch the Sparrow by Rachel Rear, examines the disappearance of Stephanie Kupchynsky.  Rachel was haunted by this story because she was intimately involved, as Stephanie was her stepsister. However, Rachel never met Stephanie as her mother did not marry Stephanie’s father until 7 years after her disappearance. Rachel was haunted by this unsolved crime and the effect it had on the family. So, she became involved in investigating it. This book was interesting as it details the family’s point of view.  The author conducted research and interviews in order to gain further knowledge about the murder and the investigation. While I love true crime novels, I found this one to be a little slow moving and hard to get through. Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the advance review copy in exchange for my honest review.
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Rear recounts the investigation of the abduction/murder of her stepsister, Stephanie Kupchynsky, a young violin teacher in Rochester, NY. While intriguing, the narrative shifted a bit too much for my tastes, going from stories about her life with Stephanie’s father (her mom married her stepfather after Stephanie went missing), corruption in the Greece police department, comparisons b/t herself & the victim, and the many people who were considered suspects. It made it feel like there really wasn't a strong thesis or a concluding idea from the story. While intriguing, I still felt like the book relied too much on Rear centering the story about her as opposed to drawing a clearer picture of Stephanie & her tragic fate.
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This was a well-written and extensively researched book with a very personal basis. The author’s search for her stepsister’s killer sent her down many paths and different crimes
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*** four and a half stars ***

Meticulously researched and likely one of the most factually rich true crime novels I have had the pleasure to read, this tragically terrible story, written by the step-sister of a young woman, Stephanie Kupchynsky, who disappeared mysteriously on July 31, 1991 from her apartment in Greece, NY, is masterful in its execution. 

Rachel, our author, had never met Stephanie, who disappeared almost seven years before her mother married Stephanie’s father, Jerry Kupchynsky.  Even so, it was impossible for Rachel (fourteen at the time of Stephanie’s loss), to grow up in her shadow without developing a sense of fascinated affinity for her step-sister, her “ghostly twin”, - a woman whose life experiences, including her physical appearance, as well as her brushes with domestic abuse, rage (both externally and internally directed) and soul-crushing depression resonated with a primal tug that could not be ignored. 

“We don’t fully believe we can be adored, because the people who should have adored us, should have made us believe in our own lovability, instead told us we were worthless. “

But, as our author chronicles in gorgeous and painstakingly-loving detail, Stephanie was much more than a victim - she was a living, breathing woman of her times, (the sadly corrupt and misogynistic 90’s), who knew joy, friendship, heartbreak, and passion, with an incredible talent for music, a love of parakeets and cockatiels, and a personality that sparkled and touched those that knew her. 

The story of Stephanie’s disappearance, and the long and eventually somewhat desperate search for justice, is as fascinating as it is grim. With no spoilers here (you will need to read the book), all I will say is that this reader literally could not put this book down.

Highly recommended for lovers of true crime, this story is both a book-lovers treat and a brutal warning - a reminder of the evil that really does lurk, all around us, and the fragility of the bonds that hold us safe. 

With an ending that thankfully offers closure, and justice (of a sort), this is the sort of book that will continue to haunt this reader, long after the lights are dimmed and the front door bolted and checked, yet again, for that (even more elusive now) sense of security. 

A great big thank you NetGalley, the author and the publisher for an ARC of this book. All thoughts presented are my own.
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Rachel Rear’s Catch the Sparrow: A Search for a Sister and the Truth of her Murder (Bloomsbury, 2022) tells the complex and devastating story of Stephanie Kupchynsky’s 1991 disappearance and murder. Rear grew up in Greece, New York, and was fourteen when Stephanie went missing. She remembers the case well and spends many poignant passages in the book discussing how the story unfolded around her. Eventually, Rear’s parents would seperate, and her mother would go on to marry Jerry Kupchynsky, Stephanie’s father. Their nuptials would occur after Stephanie went missing, so Rear never got the chance to meet her stepsister. This fact is part of what makes this text so complicated, and so compelling: while investigating her stepsister’s disappearance and murder, Rear gets to know Stephanie for the first time, attempting to reveal the woman behind the victim while she simultaneously reckons with her own past and family history. 

Catch the Sparrow is part memoir, part true crime investigation, and part eulogy. Rear eulogizes her stepsister’s memory as she learns more and more about her, interviewing family members, friends, and old boyfriends. Rear also spends much of the text interviewing key investigators and lawyers on the case, earning their respect and trust. The investigative aspects of this text are detailed and paint a broad picture of the case. The text opens with a section entitled “Discovery” in which two young boys discover Stephanie’s remains in the Spring of 1998. Stephanie had already been missing for eight years at this point, and the text suggests that the inability of the Greece police department to make any headway in her case was largely due to the extreme corruption that was rampant in those years at the department. Opening the text with the discovery of Stephanie’s remains was a strategy that captured me instantly as I needed to know what lead to this brutal discovery and why Stephanie’s remains went undiscovered for so long. 

I also really appreciated the memoir aspects of this text. Rear oscillates between an investigative and memoirist approach, exploring her own abusive childhood against the abusive childhood she begins to suspect that Stephanie also experienced. Rear sees herself in Stephanie a great deal, and this discovery was bittersweet for me as a reader. You get the sense that Rear and Stephanie would have had a lot to share with each other, and you cannot help but mourn for this lost opportunity. 

The only thing about this text that gave me pause was Rear’s decision to reveal, via transcripts from police interviews, how Stephanie was killed. Eventually, the investigators narrow in on a suspect for Stephanie’s murder, and Rear is able to get a hold of the tapes that were recorded by investigators wherein they interviewed the suspect. In 2012, the suspect reveals how Stephanie was killed, and these details are included at the end of the book. The reason including this information made me uncomfortable as a reader was because Stephanie’s biological sister asked Rear not to include the details of Stephine’s death in her book. Rear offers a response for why she did so, and I found her reasoning legitimate and understandable. Learning that members of Stephanie’s family did not want these details published did, however, made me hesitant to read them, and this hesitancy made me wonder about the way we read true crime. 

It is sometimes easy to forget, while reading true crime texts, that we are reading about cases that brutally affected people’s lives. In order for true crime to exist beyond sensationalistic tales of violence, readers, publishers, and authors alike will perhaps need to reckon with the ethical dilemmas that true crime evokes. I appreciated that Rear included the information about Stephanie’s sister asking her not to publish the details of Stephanie’s death. Rear just as easily could have left this out, but by including it, she is giving her reader the option of reading on or leaving Stephanie’s death a mystery. Rear is also implicitly drawing attention to the complex nature of writing (and reading) books that include such brutal violence. Whenever you stand on this issue, Rear’s book is absolutely worth checking out for its beauty, complexity, and compelling narrative.
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I absolutely love true crime, but this was horrible. The author kept inserting herself into the case, and the writing was incredibly juvenile.
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Wow. Very gripping and engrossing. It was fascinating to see Stephanie's life through Rachel's eyes as she attempts to solve exactly what happened to her stepsister in order to escape the shadow that her life has become. Absorbing. Check out this winner of a book. Happy reading!
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Catch The Sparrow 
Rachel Rear

This book started out all over the place. At its best it’s heartfelt. At its worst, it is directionless and haphazardly nonlinear. 

While reading I kept shifting from a nonfiction, true crime lens to a memoir lens and then back. 

While reading we shifted perspectives without much warning between her sister's case and other cases. Turning the memoir into true crime. 

It wasn’t effective. I was left a bit confused as to the exact details of the case and only knowing who was guilty and perhaps that more than a few people knew. 

It was a mess. 

If it weren’t so short I might have DNF’d. 

⭐️⭐️

Thanks to Netgalley and Bloomsbury USA for this advanced copy!
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CATCH THE SPARROW by author, teacher, and artist Rachel Rear is a True Crime book that is truly unique.  
I have read literally hundreds of true crime books and stories. They all follow a prescribed pattern and almost all are written by journalists. The best true crime books contain interviews and photos provided by the victim's family. However, this book rises above the rest. 

In it, Rachel Rear writes the story of the disappearance and ultimately the murder of Stephanie Kupchynsky. So, what makes this book so unique you ask. Well, Rachel Rear happens to be Stephanie Kupchynsky's stepsister. That in itself is interesting and offers an inside look into the story. To make this book even more compelling is the fact that Rachel and Stephanie did not become stepsisters until after Stephanie had gone missing.  

In no other book have I been so enthralled. It is difficult to believe that this is Rachel Rear's first book. CATCH THE SPARROW is researched with the meticulousness of a seasoned journalist. This research makes the book a true deep dive into the disappearance and murder. Rachel's familial connection offers readers a view into what happens to a family who go years, and decades without answers as to what happened to their loved one. 

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Whether or not you are a fan of true crime, you need to read this book. 

The detail with which Rachel delves into her stepsister's life cannot help but have readers invested in finding Stephanie's body and in determining exactly who was responsible for taking this vibrant young woman's life and in seeing that justice prevails. 

The feeling and love that Rachel feels for her deceased stepsister comes through loud and clear in her writing. 

I recommend this book with the highest possible rating. I am 100% convinced this book will be on the NY Times Best Seller List for many, many weeks. 

I rate CATCH THE SPARROW as 5 out of 5 Stars ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐  

Thank you to NetGalley and Bloomsbury Publishing for providing me with a free copy of this book.
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If you don't want to cry on a thursday, read this on a monday. Still a HIGHLY emotional look into the victim of a crime and her surviving family. I'm a lover of true crime, so I decided to check it out - and so far I am buying a copy for my mom, my nina, and myself. However, I did have some problems with it. The author projects a lot onto her murdered sister. I do not believe this was out of maliciousness, but a type of grieving. I also found it dragged a bit, and can be very deeply stream of conciousness at times. Still, it's a good read for true crime fans.
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Crime stories aren’t my typical genre - maybe that’s why this didn’t hit the mark for me? Heartbreaking true story written by the stepsister of the author - whom she didn’t know. The story seemed thoroughly researched and I appreciated the author’s obvious passion in retracing the events and understanding what happened in the disappearance of and discovery of her killer. At times, the author wrote about how she related to her stepsister in various ways and while that’s noteable, I didn’t really care to learn more about that. It felt self-Indulgent and superfluous. Heartfelt thanks to Bloomsbury for the advanced copy. I’m grateful.
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I’m giving this a 2 but I want to make something clear first : it’s not necessarily bad. It is actually very interesting, it just wasn’t exactly what I was expecting. The author seems very… narcissistic? I was expecting a story of two sisters incredibly close. However, I got two sisters where one wanted to find the other while going on and on about how ‘alike’ they are. It felt more like she was projecting onto the other and not really searching out of love. However, that’s just my own personal opinion.
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Catch the Sparrow is a fierce, graceful, uncompromising work of dauntless research into the life and of Stephanie Kupchynsky, as well as the documentation of systemic corruption, indolence, and apathy of the Greece Police department that botched and neglected the missing persons investigation of Stephanie Kupchynsky, and failed to connect her disappearance to other rapes in the same apartment building she went missing from.

This is an unfaltering account of the various inflictions of abuse that so many have faced over their lives and how they go on to frame and change the way people react to abuse, as well as the malaise of discovering someone you thought you knew was not the true version of them at all. There is a mosaic of people involved in Kupchynsky's life and the investigation, and the author never pulls any punches or shrinks away from the truth--just as Stephanie herself did not shrink away from the truth and pretend everything was fine.

(And especially thanks to the author for the courage to tell this family story and following through to the end no matter how brittle and sad the path was, and following through to the end and still finding the ability to breathe with joy and appreciation for life afterward.)
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This was an interesting true story of a young woman investigating the murder of a step sister she never met.  It was both a very personal story of her connections and their similarities and a true crime story with lots of possible suspects, corrupt police and determined police who eventually solved the crime.   The two stories sometimes worked well together and some times the styles conflicted and made the book feel a little disjointed.  Overall sad story and a telling indictment of our justice system
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A really enlightening look at the town where i grew up and its cultural and political fabric: genteel on the surface with evil lurking underneath. Shirley Jackson grew up there too and this book helps me understand why she wrote what she did: horror.
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I really enjoyed this book even though the subject matter is difficult and the case is solved. I found  the author's perspective an interesting one since she never met the person but was still interested in finding out who she was and the reason she was killed who killed her. It 's also a story of police incompetence as well as cronyism in small towns. We all know this kind of stuff still goes on today in many facets of our lives. Imagine if this was you tring to deal with solving a crime with this going on of a loved one! I would not be so nice as she or her family was.  I find  the opinions of some of the other reviewers odd about saying the author was making it all about her, It was all about her! This person was a member of her family!  Is that a crime to write about it? It's well written and an absolute page turner. I will be strongly recommending this book to my instagram booksite members. Thank you to #bloomsbury and #netgalley
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I have loved reading true crime books since I discovered Ann Rule’s book in the 1980s. Rear writes about the murder of her stepsister Stephanie. She does a solid job of recounting the story, the players, the screw ups, plus all the evidence. Stephanie’s killer was eventually apprehended, and the story is compelling, unearthing long held secrets.
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"Catch the Sparrow" is a beautifully written true crime investigation of the murder of the author's stepsister, Stephanie. Author Rachel Rear, whose mother married the widowed father of Stephanie, dives both into her family history as well as the history of Stephanie, policing in the upstate New York area, and violence against women broadly. What's fascinating is that while the book is true crime, it has a lyrical quality--singing like the sparrow in the title, one might say. The book closely connects the story of the author with her "ghost sister," in her words, but it could be an ode to all women who face the same issues. 


Thanks to Netgalley and the publishers for sharing this ARC with me in exchange for an unbiased review.
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