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a stolen life: a memoir
a stolen life: a memoir by jaycee dugard
by jaycee dugard

Powerful 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 powerful.

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.

Publisher: Simon & Schuster (July 12, 2011)

Reviewed by Merrimon, Merrimon Book Reviews
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