I heard about this book when the three girls of Cleveland were freed a couple of years ago. I didn’t know the story of Jaycee Dugard – she wrote this book as part of her treatment when she was liberated and I thought it would be interesting to hear her thoughts and feelings about what happened to her.

a stolen life jaycee dugardThis book is tough to read. From the very beginning, when she describes the relationship she had with her stepfather, a man who obviously didn’t love her and criticized every move she made, to every chapter regarding her captivity.

She was eleven when she was kidnapped by a married couple, Phillip and Nancy Garrido, on her way to the school bus, and she was held captive for 18 years, being told that she was going to “help” him with his sexual problem and it was better that he raped her instead of other girls. She lived first in a small room in the backyard of the Garridos, then between the room and the house, and later in a tent in the backyard. In the meantime, she got two daughters who were raised to call Jaycee their sister instead of their mother, she never received further education, and she developed Stockholm syndrome.

Jaycee talks about all the things that happened at the Garridos’ house. Not only did the man (?) rape her, but he took drugs in order to do it for hours (even days). In the first months only Phillip took care (? again) of her but later she was introduced to Nancy, being told that the woman was jealous and making Jaycee try hard for Nancy to like her – so was the need for love she had at that time. The book also includes some diaries the girl wrote about her and some cats that Phillip let her keep in the house, and it is heartbreaking to see the bonds of love she established with the animals. Jaycee had a big heart and she tried to fill it in that environment with anything she had at hand.

Another interesting issue is about how Phillip and Nancy changed the real world to her. She was told that there were people like Phillip everywhere, and if she escaped she would be taken by another bad guy. She also believed that she would be alone in the outside world; that her daughters would remain with the Garridos forever if she ran out.

The memoir ends with her life now: the reunion with her mother and sister and the difficulties she finds regarding the press, trying to remain anonymous and have a normal “rest of her life”.

As I told before, reading this book is hard and I couldn’t help but talking about it with everybody: the fact that Nancy actually helped Phillip to kidnap a child; the way they lied to her and made her believe that was the best and only life for her; how Jaycee’s brain has protected her from further damage by somehow making her find good things and love in everyday life. This is a book to read.

I would like to finish this review encouraging you, as Jaycee does at the beginning of the book, to speak up if you see something strange or unusual around you. Don’t always think that it’s none of your business; you can save a life.

A stolen life
Jaycee Dugard
Simon & Schuster
273 pages

Non-fiction reading challenge: 4/10