Saturday, April 2, 2016

A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout

Amanda Lindhout, a freelance journalist, was kidnapped while traveling alongside Nigel Brennan, a freelance photojournalist, in Somalia. The two were held captive for 460 days. Where they were starved, tortured, beaten, and Amanda even raped repeatedly.

“It was a lesson the world had already taught me and was teaching me still. You don’t know what’s possible until you actually see it.”

A House in the Sky is Amanda Lindhout recount of the events that took place over her year in captivity. A House in the Sky starts off with Amanda's childhood. Going into the details of her struggles of being a child of poverty. Amanda's only escape from an abusive childhood was by flipping through the pages of National Geographic and pretending to be anywhere but where she is. Vowing that when she was old enough she would save the money and nothing would stop her from traveling. In her 20s Amanda started waitresses and saving all of her funds. After saving enough she started her travels and her career as a journalist. On one of her trips she met Nigel. The two continued to keep in touch and eventually started a relationship. With a long distance relationship proving to be too much the two ended up separating. Amanda continued to travel, doing her reporting work, and continued to keep contact with Nigel. Years and many countries later Amanda found herself wanting to go to Somalia and country named as the most dangerous place on earth. Knowing there was a war going on and about the terrible danger she could face she still decided to go anyways convincing Nigel to join her. This is roughly the first 150 pages of the book. These pages at first seem unimportant and are a bit sluggish. I was having trouble connecting with Amanda and found myself seeing her as being rather naïve. I decided to push through and was very thankful I did. These pages though trivial at first end up being very important in the long run.

Four days into their trip a group of masked men ambushed their car and kidnapped Amanda, Nigel, and the three men traveling with them. At the time Amanda assumes they are just being robbed, and held for a few days, but once the kidnappers force them to call their families and demand a ransom (3 million dollars for both of them) she realizes that this isn’t going to be over with quickly. After the first 150 pages the stories starts getting into the heavy issues and reveals what happened to the two while being held. For the first five months Amanda and Nigel were able to be kept together. The two though starving and miserable, were for the most part treated “okay”. Once their captures realized that their ransom wouldn’t be paid right away things started to increasingly get worse. The two ultimately decided to convert to Islam as a play to make their captures treat them better. Though this decision was probably in their best interest, it ultimately didn’t make things much better, and the two were eventually separated and kept in separate rooms. The two come up with secret way to communicate and after they are told that the men that were taken with them are killed, they know they have to escape. The two over the next several days use nail clippers to chip away at a window in a shared bathroom. Once the two get out they run for what they hope will be freedom ultimately only having one person even attempt to help them. The two end up recaptured. The teenage kidnappers decide that Amanda, because she is a woman, is to blame for the failed escape attempt. Nigel instead of backing her up and helping her decides that since they are blaming her anyways that she should “just go ahead and take this one”.

Amanda is then locked in a windowless room with nothing more than a few useless items, and a thin mat. She is kept in the dark for weeks where she is starved, not allowed to speak, has her feet chained together, is beaten, tortured, falls ill to a bacterial fungus, and then is ultimately gang raped for her acts. She is forced to lay on her sides at all times because her captures think otherwise she might become too strong and will try to escape again. The only time she is allowed to move is when she is praying, which she eventually becomes too weak to do. Nigel is kept in a separate room with windows, books, and allowed time to go outside because he is a man. Over the next few weeks and months Amanda is continued to be tortured, raped, and one of her captures even tells her he plans on marriage her once the money has been paid. This is all happening while their capture’s continue to call their families and demand ransom, sometimes up to ten times a day. With the government refusing to help pay ransom the families eventually seek outside help hiring a specialist to help get their kids back. After 460 days and 600,000 dollars being paid the two are released back to their families.

A House in the Sky goes deep into what it is like being left alone with nothing but your own thoughts. It’s about struggling, overcoming, suffering, forgiveness, and ultimately Amanda convincing herself that if she can just push through one more day she can make it.

“See? You are okay, Amanda, It’s only your body that is suffering, and you are not your body. The rest of you is fine.”

At times this novel was hard to read and painful, but at the same time managed to take a tragic situation and make it beautiful.This story shows that the mind is a very powerful thing. A House in the Sky is one of those stories that will forever stay with me.

10/10 Stars