From Merrimon Book Reviews
a stolen life: a memoir
by jaycee dugard
story of survival
In 1991 at the age of
eleven, Jaycee Dugard was kidnapped by Phillip Garrido and his wife.
Kept as their prisoner for 18 years, she survived unthinkable sexual
and emotional abuse at the hands of her kidnappers. Contact with the
outside world was severely restricted, when existent at all. Even her
name was erased and changed for another one. How does a person, a
child, survive? In her memoir, A STOLEN LIFE, Jaycee Dugard tells the
story of her captivity, the reunion with her true family and her
movement forward to a future of freedom. Her goals are not only to
speak out against the silence forced upon her, against Phillip
Garrido's belief no one should know what happened, but also to hold him
accountable. She no longer keeps the secret. So often victims are made
to feel shame for crimes against them, but Jaycee Dugard claims her
life in this memoir, all of her life, and puts the shame where it
belongs. She is not so much a victim as a survivor. Jaycee Dugard's
story is a story of survival and hope. In writing this book, her stated
goals are, that in speaking out, others might gain the courage to speak
out when something seems wrong. She wants others to know they can
survive tough situations and thrive.
In A STOLEN LIFE, Jaycee Dugard lives up to those goals and much more.
The most horrible moments are not censored. One feels outrage towards
Phillip Garrido and his wife as well at the Justice department's
inability to stop the crime even when parole officers are on the scene.
Readers should be prepared. The descriptions of the sexual abuse are
narrated through a child's eye, thus drawing the reader in with a
directness and rawness rather than a sense of detachment. While her
story definitely holds the abuser accountable, A STOLEN LIFE itself
does not drag a reader down into the morass of Phillip Garrido's
psychology. One sees how he manipulates her, but in her ability to
reveal and unmask the manipulation with her words, one feels the power
shifting within her. What strikes this reader the most is the richness
of her inner life even in the most restricted of circumstances. Her
love of animals strikes a reader with a sense of genuineness and
goodness, not only in the early scenes of captivity, but also in the
more difficult moments of therapy as she learns more about herself.
The easy to read prose style is simple without being simplistic. Jaycee
Dugard's powerful use of imagery captures the heart of the scene
effortlessly without a stilted self-consciousness or over-analysis that
might accompany a story of this type. A STOLEN LIFE is deeply
inspirational in much the same way. By not sugar-coating or minimizing
the events, the message of survival and even hope has all the more
power. From the first page, A STOLEN LIFE is impossible to put down.
Jaycee Dugard's A STOLEN LIFE is unforgettable and very highly
recommended. This reader hopes that when the celebrity of Jaycee
Dugard's story dies down, that if the dream of writing still appeals,
she will continue to write. Her ability to use words is quite
A portion of the proceeds of the memoir will be donated to the JAYC Foundation,
Inc. The JAYC Foundation provides support and services to
ensure the timely treatment of families that are recovering from
abduction and the aftermath of other traumatic experiences.
& Schuster (July 12, 2011)
Reviewed by Merrimon,
Merrimon Book Reviews