A Stolen Life: A Memoir


Yes, I was one of those people who bought Jaycee Dugard’s book, ” A Stolen Life: A Memoir” the day it come out.  I read through in less than 48 hours.  I found her courage to write the book moving.  In deciding to write the book, she was determined not to be a victim of the Garridos any longer, and recognized that their shameful actions are not her shame.  With her book, she more than succeeded i demonstrating that point.

The main reason I wanted to read the book was that I was curious how a girl held in captivity for 18 years, could appear so together and, well, happy in the ABC special that aired only days before the book was released.  The book was everything I wanted it to be.  She was brutally honest, and in some instances provided graphic descriptions of the terror she endured.  She explained all the reasons why she felt she could not leave, and all the mind control that squashed any thoughts of escape.  The commentary Ms. Dugard provided throughout the book is moving fits so well for this book.

Ms. Dugard recalls in startling detail the day she was walking to school and a van pulled up to her, she believed to ask for directions.  A hand shoots out of the window with a stun gun and she is suddenly withering in pain on the side of the road.  Her last hold on humanity and the life she will leave behind will be a pine cone.  She wakes up only briefly to her captor’s laughing at how the “got away with it.  Once she arrives at Garrido’s home, she is undressed and forced to shower with Garrido.  Wrapped in only a towel, she is locked in a shed in the backyard.

The sexual, physical, mental, and verbal abuse she endured is unimaginable.  Ms. Dugard remains handcuffed in the small shed in the Garrido’s backyard for several years.  Leaving only when she is taken into the trailer a few feet away to endure a marathon of sexual and verbal abuse that spans for days.  During these years, she is threatened with the stun gun and dogs.  Leaving is not an option.

At the age of 14 she becomes pregnant and delivers the baby in the backyard.  Her only education on birth comes from videos and books.  She asks rhetorically, how did i get through it? She responds, you just do.  She would have another baby two years later, both providing her company and breaking the loneliness and isolation she suffered for so many years.  Nancy Garrido, who could not bear children, became jealous of Ms. Dugard, and required that the children call Nancy ‘mom’ and refer to Ms. Dugard as their sister.  During her captivity, the Garridos will not permit Ms. Dugard to say or write her name, this further destroys her persona, and she became Alissa. 

One part of the book I found particularly striking was when Ms. Dugard described how eventually the Garridos allowed her to leave the house.    Because Ms. Dugard was older, her yellow hair turned to brown, and had gained a little weight as a result of her pregnancies, so they were not worried about people finding her.  On on trip, she and Nancy shop at a thrift store, Ms. Dugard gets so caught up in shopping, that she leaves her purse unattended and wanders to another part of the store.  When she goes back to retrieve it, its has been stolen.  This event solidifies to Ms. Dugard that the outside world is not safe and that she and her girls can only be protected living with the Garridos.

Those feelings are further supported when police and parole officers visit the home, while she lives there, more than 60 times, and not once do they investigate the backyard.  In one particularly disturbing instance, a neighbor complains to the police that children are living in the backyard, and although a police officer goes to the home, he does not investigate the backyard!  It only the result of two female officers who notice that something is not right when Garrido takes Ms. Dugard and her daughters to UC Berkeley.  Mr. Garrido was sentenced to over 400 years in prision – I think he got off light for what he did.  Sadly, Mrs. Garrido was only sentenced to 36 years in prision, one can only hope she doesn’t make parole because she deserves every day of that sentence and so much more.

After reading this memoir, I am still stunned by how healthy and happy Ms. Dugard appears after all she has endured.  I  highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in psychology, kidnapping, or who wants to read a story about persevering through horrific events.

What do you think about Jaycee Dugard’s kidnapping?

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