Review: The Girls Are Gone by Michael Brodkorb & Allison Mann

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★★★★

Wise Ink Creative Publishing | 2018

Opening Argument: Your Honour, this case comes down to one fact – this fucking bitch is cray.

The Clients: One bad mommy, one fucked over father.

Plot Truthy-ness: Told factually with care, but emotionally leaning to one side.


I was offered this book by the authors and their book publicist in exchange for a review. At first, I was like, Woo! True crime! But then I read the description and was like, No one dies? This is going to be boring.

But, shit was I wrong! Who knew family court drama could be so fucking crazy? I mean, I suppose I should have because I’ve been through a little bit of this myself (my husband has custody of his kids for a reason,) but nothing I’ve witnessed my husband deal with really comes close to the levels of nuttiness presented in this true tale.

I’d like to do a quick rundown of the basic facts of this story, but I don’t know that I can do it all justice in a just a few sentences. There’s a lot of twisty, crazy events, and people, that round out the events that took place in 2011, continuing to 2018.

Basically what you have is a married couple – David and Sandra Rucki. Together for 20-something years, Sandra seems to change on a dime and tricks David into a divorce where he is left with nothing but their combined debt. Sandra takes everything else, including full custody of their five children. David, obviously, isn’t going to take this kind of shit lying down, so he fights back. And what follows is basically 8 years of Sandra and her Trump-cult like supporters doing everything they can to turn the kids against David, and destroy David’s life by spreading rumours, accusing him of endless abusive crimes and revealing his personal information all over the state of Minnesota, with the help of her kids no less.

In the process, some of Sandra’s supporters also use the Rucki case to try and reshape the family court system in the state. (Although they come across as fucking morons in the process.)

facebook things GIF

Sandra Rucki acts like an entitled brat with mental health issues (that I’m a little fuzzy on the emergence of,) who thinks she can do and say and behave however she wants as long as its serving her agenda, which I think is a never-ending quest for attention and pity, when you come right down to it. But we’ll probably never really know.

Sandra orchestrates the most severe case of parental alienation I’ve ever heard of, that is still causing issues for the kids to know what is real and what is not. She obstructs every attempt by the adults in the room to settle the situation and give the five kids some semblance of normalcy. But claims at every turn that it’s what’s best for the kids.

According to her, David is abusive to her and sexually molests the kids – but there is no record of these claims with police – not in reports or phone calls or visits by the police. And when Sandra was the one with custody (for about a year) she didn’t clean or cook or pay attention to the kids at all. They lived in filth in a house where all upkeep completely ceased.

As her lawyers and supporters argue that she just wants to see her kids, she purposefully goes against every court order that would allow her to do so. She lies about being homeless, she lies about being broke while having millions of dollars hidden away. She’s a fucking piece of work if there ever was one.

they will be divided how i have them separated GIF

When Sandra inevitably loses custody of her kids because she’s cuckoo for Coco-Puffs, and also a terrible criminal, Sandra and a couple of her crackpot partners in crime essentially kidnapped the two oldest girls and leave the young teens with strangers, where they will stay for next 944 days as David continues his court fights and never stops his search to find his daughters. It’s unfortunate, that to this day those two girls are the only ones still mildly “brainwashed” by their mother. One of the other sisters calls them “annoying” because they still think “the old way.” It is damage that will take decades to overcome.

While Sandra lies about knowing where her daughters are, and is claiming to be distraught about their disappearance, she also goes on cruises with one of her two boyfriends, and takes frequent trips to Vegas to gamble (even though she’s “broke.”) It is a hell of a story that requires your full attention to completely soak up the pure and utter crazy of the people involved.

john crist comedy GIF by Interstellardesignz

This book was written by the journalist who covered the case, Michael Brodkorb – who was subsequently targeted for harassment by Sandra and her supporters – and the paralegal, Allison Mann, who worked for David Rucki’s lawyer. It’s told primarily through court transcripts and news articles with personal details added for a greater understanding of the situation as it unfolds.

Personally, for me, I’m a bit of a law geek so this type of storytelling really worked for me. I found it fast-paced and super interesting. Reading the actual words spoken in court by Sandra Rucki and her fucking stupid ass-lawyer, Michelle MacDonald (a Republican pick for Minnesota Supreme Court, no less) was at times hilarious, and at other times dumbfounding.

There is a literally a moment where Michelle McDonald does something against court rules, so the court officer tries to cite her for it, but she refuses to provide her personal information for the citation. Instead, she performs some kind of childish “protest” where she needs to be forcibly moved from her chair to a wheelchair, then is rolled back into court to finish the hearing, but then spends the rest of the hearing basically refusing to participate on behalf of her client, or do any cross-examination.

kate mckinnon lawyer GIF by Saturday Night Live

Sandra Rucki and her gang of morons turn the entire Minnesota legal system into a shit-show and reading about it was grade A entertainment. So much so that at times I forgot I was reading a thing that actually happened to actual people.

Let’s be clear, this book has an emotional nuance to it that told me the authors do not like Sandra Rucki or her merry-band of weirdos very much. It is definitely a “just the facts” telling of the case, but there’s a little something more to it that added a personal element that I latched on to and firmly understand. Considering Brodkorb, and his family, have been literally threatened and intimidated, and bogus harassment orders issues against him that required him to spend thousands on lawyer’s fees, it’s truly not surprising that this book has moments of a “personal stake” feeling to it, because one of the authors has been personally targeted by Sandra Rucki.

There are aspects to the story that I wish were explored more, or had theories presented at least. Like, why did Sandra do what she did? If she’d been like this during a 20-something year long relationship, David Rucki wouldn’t have trusted her, her kids wouldn’t have trusted her. They would have always known mom had problems. So what drove her to plan and execute this evil plan against David Rucki, and also in a way, against her children?

Also, I would have liked more input from the family members who agreed to be in the book as the story unfolded. I would have liked their memories or opinions on certain events to have been added to the overall recounting. Especially that of David, who you don’t really hear from.

Other than that, this is a crazy ass story – one I’d never heard of before – that made a super interesting (and different) addition into the true crime genre.

Thanks to the authors, and Kelsey Butts, for my copy! It is has found a permanent place on my bookshelf.

You can learn more about this saga of a case at Missing In Minnesota.

Updated note: The authors, through their publicist Kelsey Butts, have said: It was and is our utmost priority to stick to the facts in this case. We cannot point to one place in the book where we failed to do so. 

I have updated any part of the review that implied otherwise, and apologize for any confusion of the points I was trying to make. This was a factual book that uses mostly court transcripts and detailed timelines that will captivate any reader.

🔪🔪🔪


On the evening of April 19, 2013, Samantha and Gianna Rucki disappeared. Two of five children born to David Rucki and Sandra Grazzini-Rucki, the teenage sisters vanished in the midst of their parents’ divorce.

The girls’ father, David Rucki, worked tirelessly with law enforcement to search day and night for his two missing daughters, following every lead while raising three remaining children at home. Their mother, Sandra Grazzini-Rucki, used her newfound freedom to vacation around the world, abandoning her children. And as the investigation intensified, catching the attention of the media, Sandra also disappeared.

The Girls Are Gone is the true story of two sisters who went missing, the father who kept searching, and the adults who conspired to keep the truth hidden.


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