Do you remember the big news story from the Summer of 2009 where a woman, kidnapped at 11 years of age, was found 18 years later living in the backyard of her captor’s Antioch, California home? I do. I also remember when this 11 year old girl, Jaycee Dugard was kidnapped in Lake Tahoe in 1991. Everything about the story was horrifying. Yet the fact that she was found was great news.
Her memoir crossed my desk on Saturday at work. I checked it in and decided that I wanted to read it. I brought it home, curled up in a chair under my electric blanket and dove right in.
“As I cross the road at the bend I lose my train of thought and start to daydream about the summer…As I am walking I hear a car behind me…to my surprise the car pulls up beside me. I was so lost in thought that the unusual behavior of the driver didn’t register with me. I stop walking as he rolls down his window. He leans slightly out of his car and starts to ask me for directions. His hand shoots out of the window so fast I barely register that he has something black in his hand. I hear a crackling sound and I feel paralyzed.”
I was drawn into her story. This particular scene really got to me. One minute she is daydreaming about summer, the next she is stunned with a stun-gun and thrown in the back of a car. It gets worse. So much worse. The abuse this person had to endure was terrible. Worse than you could imagine.
This book gave me nightmares. It made me depressed. It completely affected my mood. I wondered why I was even reading it and putting myself through this. I still am not really sure about that.
There is a small section of journal entries that are incredibly moving. She writes about the most mundane things like how she wishes she would lose weight and how she needs to watch what she eats. She also writes about how she feels resigned to her fate, being captive to her kidnapper. Yet she also had hopes and dreams. One of the journal entries is a list of things she wishes to do in the future and one of those things is travel the world. She writes about how she felt the need to get out of her situation but didn’t feel she had the power to do so. Reading these entries broke my heart. On the one hand I can relate to her wanting to eat healthier, travel the world, and lose weight. My God, I have written of those very things in my own journal. I can even relate to that feeling of being stuck somewhere and feeling like you can’t get out. But she had this extra layer of absolute horror added to her problems that isn’t really mentioned in the journal entries.
I found myself sobbing when I read about her reunion with her mom. Even now, thinking about it brings tears to my eyes. I loved reading about the moment she revealed who she was to the authorities. When she wrote her real name down on paper (for the first time in 18 years) she said it felt like breaking an evil spell.
I can’t say whether or not I loved this book. On the one hand it was very difficult to read. But in the end, am glad I read it. I feel like I can have more compassion for those who have endured such terrible suffering having read Dugard’s story.