Searching for Savanna

Mona Gable

Quick Synopsis

A gripping and illuminating investigation into the disappearance of Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind when she was eight months pregnant, highlighting the shocking epidemic of violence against Native American women in America and the societal ramifications of government inaction.

Publisher’s Synopsis

In the summer of 2017, twenty-two-year-old Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind vanished. A week after she disappeared, police arrested the white couple who lived upstairs from Savanna and emerged from their apartment carrying an infant girl. The baby was Savanna’s, but Savanna’s body would not be found for days.

The horrifying crime sent shock waves far beyond Fargo, North Dakota, where it occurred, and helped expose the sexual and physical violence Native American women and girls have endured since the country’s colonization.

With pathos and compassion, Searching for Savanna confronts this history of dehumanization toward Indigenous women and the government’s complicity in the crisis. Featuring in-depth interviews, personal accounts, and trial analysis, Searching for Savanna investigates these injustices and the decades-long struggle by Native American advocates for meaningful change.

Book Review

Searching for Savanna is a sobering true crime account that highlights the missing and murdered Indigenous women (MMIW) crisis through the case of 22-year old Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, a member of the Spirit Lake Tribe of North Dakota who disappeared while 8-months pregnant.

True crime so often focuses on the perpetrator of the crime and glosses over the victim. Mona Gable did an excellent job centering this story on Savanna. Rather than glorifying Savanna’s death or the crimes against her, Gable gives readers a factual account of events while focusing on Savanna as a person. I was able to gain an understanding of Savanna’s personality and life as well as those around her. Of course, this also served Gable’s purpose of tying this case to the larger MMIW epidemic.

What did not work as well for me was how Gable structured the book. The story is front-loaded. Except for the trial, Savanna’s disappearance and the investigation is told quickly at the beginning. The rest of the narrative is details about Savanna and her life, the court case against her assailants, and the context of MMIW and government inaction. I found this structure to be strange and to do a disservice to the content.

While I am familiar with the MMIW crisis, I am less knowledgeable about its legal and political history in the U.S. I had hoped that reading Searching for Savanna would provide me more background about and context to the issue. While Gable does discuss the MMIW movement among Indigenous women, she did not provide much detail about the broader issue or how it impacts Native women and families. I also thought Gable’s attempt to discuss the government’s neglect of MMIW and the legal landscape to be rudimentary. For example, she discusses the reauthorization struggles of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) at the time of Savanna’s disappearance but fails to provide the background and history of the law.

I would have liked for Savanna’s case to be compared and contrasted against the norm for MMIW cases. From what I know, there were aspects that deviated from the norm and using her case to discuss the broader issue fails to recognition what went better and worse than other MMIW cases. I also think if Searching for Savanna better integrated the broader context with the personal story the narrative would be more interesting and less repetitive.

Overall, I enjoyed reading Searching for Savanna. It is an excellent example of a true crime book that focuses on the victim and does not glorify the crime or others’ pain. If you are unfamiliar with the MMIW crisis, I think this is a good introduction that also frames the case of one woman.


Overall Rating

Rating: 3 out of 5.


Rating: 3 out of 5.


Rating: 3 out of 5.


Rating: 2 out of 5.

Searching for Savanna: The Murder of One Native American Woman & the Violence Against the Many


Nonfiction: Humanities & Social Science; True Crime

Publication Date
April 25, 2023


Storygraph Rating
3.88 stars

Goodreads Rating
3.89 stars

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