Monday, 9 December 2013

Non-Fiction Reviews: A Stolen Life by Jaycee Duggard and My Story by Elizabeth Smart.

I am not a big non-fiction reader. I prefer fiction any day of the week. But this year I've stepped out of my comfort zone and actually read quite a few non-fiction books. 

The two books I am reviewing today are fairly similar, in the sense that they are memoirs/accounts of victims about their abductions and the life during the months/years of their captivity. I had heard about both these cases in the papers and was intrigued about these cases. I saw these stories on the News and saw episodes of Oprah on both these cases. When I knew the victims or rather survivors of these ordeals had written books, I was curious to read these books. 

I enjoyed both these books, but if you are uncomfortable or can't stomach graphic mentions of rape and abuse then these books are definitely not for you. There were points while reading these books that I had to stop and take a deep breath and take a break. Some portions were difficult and knowing it was real and not made-up was harder. So be warned. 

Now on with the reviews. 

Book: My Story

Author: Elizabeth Smart with Chris Stewart.

Pages: 320

How Long it Took me To read: 4 hours

Plot Summary: For the first time, ten years after her abduction from her Salt Lake City bedroom, Elizabeth Smart reveals how she survived and the secret to forging a new life in the wake of a brutal crime

On June 5, 2002, fourteen-year-old Elizabeth Smart, the daughter of a close-knit Mormon family, was taken from her home in the middle of the night by religious fanatic, Brian David Mitchell and his wife, Wanda Barzee. She was kept chained, dressed in disguise, repeatedly raped, and told she and her family would be killed if she tried to escape. After her rescue on March 12, 2003, she rejoined her family and worked to pick up the pieces of her life.

Now for the first time, in her memoir, MY STORY, she tells of the constant fear she endured every hour, her courageous determination to maintain hope, and how she devised a plan to manipulate her captors and convinced them to return to Utah, where she was rescued minutes after arriving.  Smart explains how her faith helped her stay sane in the midst of a nightmare and how she found the strength to confront her captors at their trial and see that justice was served.

General Thoughts and Review: I feel odd reviewing a book like this. I am mean it is essentially about the worst time in someone's life and it shook me while reading it. It is terrifying to think that someone can be taken from their own bedroom, while the rest of the family sleeps a few feet away. Your home is supposed to be your safe place.

The book talks about not only Elizabeth Smart's abduction but also her first meeting with the man who kidnapped her. She talks about her days- 9 months- she spent with the two people who kept her in captivity. The first few days and the first time she is raped is horrible and just broke my heart. The narrative then moves to her day to day life with her captors and eventually about her moving around her city in disguise with  them. The trio then move cities and once again, Elizabeth is forced to live as a homeless person and endure further abuse.

Portions of this book were difficult to read, well a book of this nature will obviously be difficult.

The writing was OK. I mean one doesn't expect fantastic writing so that didn't irk me much.

What irked me slightly was frequent mentions of how horrible it was to live out in the open and being homeless. How dirty she felt- literally dirty being covered in dirt and not being able to bathe or wear her own clothes. I mean I am sure that's hard....very hard living in those circumstances but they were mentioned over and over and over and that just bugged me a bit. I mean this was a hellish situation to be in and the most worrisome issue cannot be one about homelessness.

Overall this book was OK. But I am glad I read it.

Rating: 2/5

Book: A Stolen Life 

Author: Jaycee Dugard 

Pages: 273 

How Long it Took Me to Read: 3 hours (I read it in one sitting.) 

Plot Summary: In the summer of 1991 I was a normal kid. I did normal things. I had friends and a mother who loved me. I was just like you. Until the day my life was stolen. 
For eighteen years I was a prisoner. I was an object for someone to use and abuse. 

For eighteen years I was not allowed to speak my own name. I became a mother and was forced to be a sister. For eighteen years I survived an impossible situation.

On August 26, 2009, I took my name back. My name is Jaycee Lee Dugard. I don’t think of myself as a victim. I survived.

A Stolen Life is my story—in my own words, in my own way, exactly as I remember it. 

General Thoughts and Review: I really liked this book. Jaycee's voice and spirit were both commendable and kept me turning pages. This book is unflinchingly honest, heart-felt and heart-breaking. I had to put the book down several times to just shut it out. The descriptions of rape and abuse were just too much at times and I might have skipped a few pages now and again. 

I kept saying little prayers thanking the powers be that nothing this terrible happened to me and those I love. Because getting kidnapped from the side of the road could happen to anyone. 

The book moves at a steady pace and covers the period of 18 long years in a great way. There is lot more attention paid to the early years in captivity and then the focus moves to the years in which she had her children and then her life when she was allowed a little more freedom and even worked in a printing business with her captor. 

I enjoyed this book a lot more than I did the first one. 

Rating: 3/5. 

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