Monday, June 16, 2014

Book Review: If I Can't Have You: Susan Powell, Her Mysterious Disappearance, and the Murder of Her Children

Gregg Olsen and Rebecca Morris, hardcover edition, 336 pages, St. Martin's Press. (I did crop out Josh Powell's face because I feel so strongly that he is selfish scum and I hate seeing his face here with these beautiful souls.)
Every once in a great while a genuine murder mystery unfolds before the eyes of the American public. The tragic story of Susan Powell and her murdered boys, Charlie and Braden, is the only case that rivals the Jon Benet Ramsey saga in the annals of true crime. When the pretty, blonde Utah mother went missing in December of 2009 the media was swept up in the story – with lenses and microphones trained on Susan’s husband, Josh. He said he had no idea what happened to his young wife, and that he and the boys had been camping in the middle of a snowstorm.

Over the next three years bombshell by bombshell, the story would reveal more shocking secrets. Josh’s father, Steve, who was sexually obsessed with Susan, would ultimately be convicted of unspeakable perversion. Josh’s brother, Michael, would commit suicide. And in the most stunning event of them all, Josh Powell would murder his two little boys and kill himself with brutality beyond belief. (Synopsis from
Like many, I knew of Susan Powell's disappearance. Living in WA, I felt a closeness to what happened here in Puyallup to her dear boys. I had no idea the Powell family was so messed up. The book fills in the backstory on "the family" and helps you understand possibly why Josh Powell turned out how he did. Reading the book, I was pretty disgusted a majority of the time. Mainly because of how the police held back so much from the Coxes. In my opinion, there was way too much miscommunication between DSHS and the police (West Valley City and Pierce County). I honestly believe one of the tragic events could have been prevented. I am also disappointed with the 911 operator that the social worker called. It was clearly a call that deemed emergency help, but they did not think her smelling gasoline was important.
It was a game, but unwinnable for Terri. She wanted her children to know discipline, love, and the value of a routine.
Not Steve. Chuck saw him as the ultimate Disneyland dad. He bought his children's loyalty by giving them freedom and gifts, and making their mother appear to be a monster. (excerpt from the book)
In the excerpt above, we learn of Josh Powell's mother and see a glimpse of what she went through. I also can identify with the "Disneyland dad" statement; that is how I see my older boys' father.
Reading the book, you can't help but choose to side with the Cox family and find yourself loathing the Powell family. I hope one day, Susan is found and laid to rest with her sons. I also hope Steve Powell stays in prison for a much longer time for his voyeurism and possession of pornography. I also hope Terri Powell (or whatever her name is nowadays) feels terrible for what she did and didn't do. The Powell boys' story is a very sad one and hopefully law enforcement can learn from it.
If you are unfamiliar with Susan's story, please read this book. Her friends and family make me wish I knew her when she was alive. She sounds like a strong mother and great friend. If you are familiar with the story, still read this book. This book gives you some background on the Powell family and you learn of the mistakes law enforcement possibly made. Just get the tissues beforehand.