With limited Internet and no cable television, reading has become a popular pastime since we moved to the countryside. I don’t anticipate doing many book reviews though. I’m a stickler for classics (especially by Charles Dickens and John Steinbeck) and I tend to re-read my favorites multiple times. So unless you want to see my notes on “Grapes of Wrath” after the eleventh time I’ve read it (no joke: I read it twice while in high school alone!), I’ll save you the boring repetition and limit my reviews to the few “new” books that I occasionally pick up. “A Stolen Life” by Jacee Dugard is deservingly the first.
I bought the Jaycee Dugard book a long time ago, not knowing if I’d ever actually read it. I just saw her face at the bookstore among the already-overpaid celebrities, athletes and politicians who had also written books about their lives and realized that she’s the only one who actually deserved to make a dime sharing her story. Poor girl. I just wanted to give her my money!
After sitting on it for a few months, I finally built up the nerve to read the book. Yes, some parts of the story are difficult to read, but the fact remains that this amazing woman actually survived a massively horrible failure of our criminal justice system. In fact, I was incredibly impressed by Jaycee’s ability to casually minimize some of the monstrous acts that were forced on her as an 11-year-old child. In hindsight though, that’s obviously a skill that she developed to survive her prolonged imprisonment and abuse …not necessarily an attempt to make the reader more comfortable. I also imagine that (despite how horrifying and painful the acts must have been) rape was only a tiny piece of the eighteen year nightmare of a puzzle that started with her kidnapping.
When I first picked up the book I was a little dismayed by the writing style …until I realized the similarity to a child’s personal journal. Whether intentionally or not, the author seems to have reverted back to her days as an innocent eleven-year-old to recall the very moment of her kidnapping, exactly as she lived it. As the story continues and the years of her recollections progress, so does the writing style. In fact, the reader will find themselves adapting to the childlike writing in the beginning of the book and not even notice the evolution that takes place until the end, when an incredibly astute woman describes her therapy and the recovery process. There is still a hint of childlike quality to the writing at the end of the book, but for a woman who’s life came to a standstill at the age of eleven and didn’t start again until eighteen years later, that’ll probably always be a challenge.
Ultimately, “A Stolen Life” is a story of strength and yes, even love. Even though her two children were literally forced on her when she was still a child herself, Jaycee somehow found the strength to carry both pregnancies to full term, give birth twice in backyard sheds and raise her children with love and dedication. Despite never seeing a doctor, dentist, teacher, healthy relationship or life outside a backyard (where their mother had not only conceived them from rape, but where the rapist had actually delivered them each at birth) those two girls were still happy, healthy and educated enough to successfully enroll in public high school following their rescue …all thanks to the strength and love of their mom. It really puts the challenges of a typical parenting environment into perspective. I know that was never the theme or intention of the story, but honestly: Every mom should read this book.
I’d strongly recommend this book and will gladly share it so it can make the rounds before I read it again. Remarkably well-written, Jaycee!