A House in the Sky

A House in the Sky
By Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett
Publisher: Scribner 2013
367 pages
Source: personal copy

Amanda Lindhout struck me as a young woman always wanting to cross another country’s border, to travel to more countries, to live more experiences, more, more, more until the door slammed shut on that kind of life when she was kidnapped in Somalia. Her account of that 460-day ordeal shows how a door opened for her to triumph in an impossible situation, as she found the ability to recognize and practice forgiveness and love. She learned about thankfulness in the most unlikely of places.

Though this optimistic and determined young woman endured beatings, gang rape, starvation, many days in darkness and filth, during her long ordeal, there is restraint in telling the unspeakable. The authors allow events to speak for themselves. Ms. Lindhout showed respect and understanding for the captors and for the friend who shared her captivity. She wanted to learn about her captors and felt empathy for the circumstances of the mostly young teenagers who guarded and abused her. Here is a woman who showed true grit.

Along with her co-author Sara Corbett, she has written a gripping account of growing up in Canada, life as a backpacker around the world, her hope of becoming a journalist, and her kidnapping a few days after entering one of the most dangerous countries in the world.

Ms. Lindhout loved the exhilaration and freedom of travel. What is freedom? This freedom story is part mistaken identity, part adventure, part risk, part courage, part loneliness, but mostly kidnapping and atrocity for Amanda Lindhout and the ex-boyfriend she was traveling with and for her mismatched group of captors. And yet, never for a moment did she stop searching for freedom. That is a part of what makes the book so interesting.

Today Ms. Lindhout heals from her experiences. Her redemptive acts include starting The Global Enrichment Foundation. This organization supports educational initiatives in Somalia and Kenya where many Somalis have sought sanctuary. Through her work with this group she builds a stairway to hope for herself and others, just as she built stairways to rooms in the house in the sky–the place she would go in her mind when the degradation of torture and nearly unbearable living conditions overwhelmed her.

This book is mystery, thriller, memoir, travel book all in one. It is well written with a strong narrative and important themes. This resilient woman offers inspiration that any one of us can tap into. She goes beyond courage to forgiveness. She never loses her desire to learn. She seems able to overcome a dehumanizing experience through striving for understanding.

I will continue to think of her story, not only her life and experience, but the lives of others who in some way shared her experience. She has made her story about more than the horrors that she endured, about more than whether or not she would ever be freed. She has given us a story of forgiveness, endurance, and a true triumph of the spirit.

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