Sharon Butala, ‘The Girl in Saskatoon: A Meditation on Friendship, Memory, and Murder’

Popjournalism
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It was the early '60s in Saskatoon when the Man in Black himself, Johnny Cash, came to town for a concert. Beauty queen and nursing student Alexandra Wiwcharuk won a local radio contest to appear on stage with Cash as he sang, "The Girl in Saskatoon." Less than a year after her on-stage appearance, Alexandra went missing. Her body was found on May 31, 1962, on the banks of the Saskatchewan River after being missing for almost two weeks. Police determined that Wiwcharuk was knocked unconscious and buried alive, with the official cause of death being asphyxiation. The Girl in Saskatoon is an engaging retelling and examination of this infamous true crime. Award-winning Prairie author Sharon Butala was a friend of the victim's and presents a unique, personal perspective on the still-unsolved murder. However, Butala doesn't set out to solve the crime, but instead references the facts in relation to her own memories of Wiwcharuk.

Haunting and enthralling, Butala brings more to the table than your average non-fiction crime novel. This story has been much-publicized and much-discussed across Canada since the '60s but the difference between this and other examinations are the personal touches Butala adds to the facts, bringing both context and emotion to the story. She discusses the case not only from the perspective of a researcher examining facts but as a friend still trying to come to terms with a tragedy decades later. The reader starts to feel like they know Wiwcharuk and are not just reading another story about a "cold case" that got some publicity over the years. Through the simple eloquence of Butala's Spartan writing style and the detailed recounting of aging memories, the reader is drawn into a true Prairie tragedy that still haunts Saskatoon.

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