Before you begin to judge me for straying yet again from the List after I just said that I would return to it as soon as I finished Asimov’s Foundation series, hear me out.
I had to.
Okay, listen. When a region recommends a book to its entire community, it behoves me to pay attention. This is what the Waterloo Region does with their One Book, One Community program. Their 2016 pick is A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett.
One would think there would be no copies left in the library – the whole region is trynna read this thing! There would be waiting lists for the waiting lists, right? Right! EXCEPT there happened to be ONE copy at the Express Checkout desk the exact moment I looked it up, and an exceptionally nice library angel willing to guard it until I got there. Coincidence? Not likely. This was kismet.
So you see, I really had no choice, I had to read it.
So I did.
I blew through this book in a matter of days, which was undoubtedly assisted by the fact that I’ve been sick and therefore relegated to the couch and bed with nothing else to do in my spare time but read. I consumed this book, and was consumed by it.
A House in the Sky is Amanda Lindhout’s story of her 460-day kidnapping in Somalia. In the book, she provides context for her readers with details of her childhood in Alberta and how she came to develop a deep sense of wanderlust. In her early twenties, an adult who was no longer tethered to parents, she began to travel the world in a way that would make even the well-travelled amongst us jealous. Adopting a lifestyle which enabled her to set off for months at a time, Amanda travelled to over 46 countries, returning to Canada only to refill her bank account. Once financing was in place, she was off again. Her approach to travelling reminded me of the television series Departures, except Scott and Justin had a cameraman and a filming budget, and Amanda had only her waitressing savings.
Amanda’s wanderlust evolved into an aspiration to become a photojournalist, which landed her in war zones for gigs. In 2008, she travelled to Somalia with her friend Nigel to try to get photos they could sell, and it is there they were kidnapped and held for ransom for 15 months.
Amanda’s retelling of her time spent in captivity is hard to envision. Not because it’s poorly written, but because it’s traumatic. While reading the book, I kept thinking to myself how amazing it was not only that she survived, but also that she continues to survive, every day since she was freed. I kept reminding myself “This is real. This really happened. She actually lived through this and people actually did this to her.”
I was also struck by the strength it must have taken to relive those 15 months, in each horrific detail, in order to write this book.
What will I take away from reading this book?
I think I will take with me the strength of the inner self. I am astounded by Amanda’s ability to survive her kidnapping, and even more so by her attitude and perspective on, well, everything. That little voice inside her head is what kept Amanda going so strong for so long – we all have that little voice, but it’s hard to listen to it sometimes.
On days when I was really struggling…the voice posed questions. It said, In this exact moment, are you okay? The answer, in that exact moment, was steadying: Yes, right now I am still okay.
– Lindhout & Corbett, A House in the Sky, p.294
I need to make that voice of mine an ally, instead of always arguing with it, and find my own strength, so I know it’s there when I need it.