Pure Land is the story of the most brutal murder in the history of Grand Canyon and how McGivney's quest to investigate the victim's life and death wound up guiding the author through her own life-threatening crisis. On this journey stretching from the southern tip of Japan to the bottom of Grand Canyon, and into the ugliest aspects of human behavior, Pure Land offers proof of the healing power of nature and of the resiliency of the human spirit.
Hanamure left in her journals. Yet, McGivney also had a connection to Wescogame, Hanamure’s killer, and her reporting unexpectedly triggered long-buried memories about violent abuse McGivney experienced as a child.
Tomomi Hanamure, a Japanese citizen who loved exploring the rugged wilderness of the American West, was killed on her birthday May 8, 2006. She was stabbed 29 times as she hiked to Havasu Falls on the Havasupai Indian reservation at the bottom of Grand Canyon. Her killer was an 18-year old Havasupai youth named Randy Redtail Wescogame who had a history of robbing tourists and was addicted to meth. It was the most brutal murder ever recorded in Grand Canyon’s history. Annette McGivney covered the tragedy for Backpacker magazine where she is Southwest Editor and she wrote an award-winning article that received more reader mail than any story in the last decade. (See the story here.)
While the assignment ended in June 2007 when the article was published, McGivney could not let go of the story.
In Pure Land, just as the Colorado formed the Grand Canyon, Annette McGivney shows how landscape and the circumstances of geography, politics and history formed the lives of Randy Wescogame and Tomomi Hanamure as well as her own. With such incredible compassion, deep insight, and crafted language, McGivney shapes her stories as richly as the landscape has shaped their lives.
— Nicole Walker, author of Egg
As a woman who also enjoys wilderness hiking, McGivney felt a bond with Hanamure and embarked on a years-long pursuit to learn more about her.
McGivney traveled to Japan and across the American West following the trail
Tomomi Hanamure and her dog Blues
McGivney expertly intertwines the lives of three people—all troubled, searching, and deeply connected to the stunningly gorgeous landscapes of the Grand Canyon. Pure Land reads like Into the Wild, but with a female protagonist, and by an author who is even more fearless than Krakauer in her quest to understand her past, her motivations, and her desire to make sense of a brutal, possibly unavoidable murder.
—Tracy Ross, author of The Source of All Things, a Memoir
Pure Land is a story of this inner and outer journey, how two women in search of their true nature found transcendence in the West’s most spectacular landscapes. It is also a tale of how child abuse leads to violence and destroys lives. And it is, ultimately, a story of healing. While chronicling Hanamure’s life landed McGivney in the crime scene of her own childhood, it was her connection to Hanamure— a woman she did not know until after Hanamure died — that helped McGivney find a way out of her own horror.
By Annette McGivney
McGivney does a masterful job weaving three life stories together making Pure Land a compelling saga that underscores the inestimable value of nurture and nature in shaping lives—for good and bad—and in the end, the incredible healing power of family love and wilderness.
— Thomas Myers, author of Over the Edge: Death in Grand Canyon