Survival Depends On “A House In The Sky”


thWhen I read autobiographies about people who experienced captivity, I can’t help wondering how they managed to survive.  I was never more astonished with survival of this type than while reading Amanda Lindhout’s terrifying experience of being a captive for 15 months in Somalia as told in her memoir, “A House In The Sky”.  I found myself frequently turning to the back flap of the book to see the picture of her smiling and looking healthy to reassure myself that she not only survived, but seemed happy.  A love of travel prompted Amanda to live a nomadic lifestyle as she backpacked around the world in her twenties.  She had only just begun to channel that passion into a job as a photojournalist when Somali kidnappers abducted her and another journalist, Nigel.  Initially, Amanda and Nigel shared a room, and found comfort and strength in each other, but they were soon separated, which contributed to the extreme abuse Amanda experienced.

Amanda was a pillar of strength, which supported both of them.  She managed to think positively even when there was so little to be thankful for.  On one night she is thankful that her captor placed her food on the floor instead of throwing it at her.  My heart absolutely melted when Amanda and Nigel exchanged the self-made Christmas gifts they made for each other almost one year into captivity.  They found ways to encourage each other, like passing notes and knocking on the walls, but these moments were so small compared to the majority of their time that was spent in crushing silence and, for Amanda, darkness.  Amanda is a thinker, and it was this ability that allowed her to attempt a daring escape, and later, to remove herself from the situation by escaping to a house in the sky.  In this imaginary house, Amanda thought of her family and her life, and wandered down light filled hallways and through doors where she cooked and laughed.  Some of the treatment she endured after the escape was horrific (being in total darkness, having to lay absolutely still all day, being shackled with chains, being strung up and tortured, being told death was imminent).  The narration was so strong and honest that I was in awe of how well Amanda was able to depict the events.

Two things made me really like Amanda.  First she never had a “woe is me” attitude or felt she didn’t deserve what happened to her.  Instead, she acknowledged that she put herself in a very dangerous situation by traveling to Somalia.  Second, she was smart.  She used different tactics for her benefit, like becoming a Muslim to gain sympathy and better treatment from the men holding her hostage.  This is another book that I could go on and on about, and was the best memoir I read this year.  It was surprisingly uplifting, and I think many people would appreciate her courageous story.

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