[Book Review] A Stolen Life : A Memoir by Jaycee Lee Dugard

Fair warning: if you’re not comfortable reading the intro, don’t continue reading the actual review.

I first heard about the kidnapping of Jaycee Lee Dugard while I was browsing another missing children case, Madeleine McCann. I remember reading a page in my mother’s tabloid, in her office, one that she subscribed to at that time. There was two pages dedicating to the then still suspected kidnapping of Madeleine McCann. I remember those pages so clearly because a) the little girl on the photograph looked so vibrant and happy and pretty it’s just hard to imagine bad people hurting her, b) she was the big sister of younger twins and I was – still am – a big sister too, and c) she was on a vacation with her family and the parents left her and the twins for just a little while in their hotel room and poof – she was then nowhere to be seen. I did not google at that time, I was not familiar with the Internet enough.

It was expected that I would just forget about Madeleine’s disappearance case after a while – after all, there were many crimes seen on TV everyday and this case is not even close to home. But somehow, for reasons stated above, I found the case of Madeleine’s disappearance popped to my mind from time to time, and eventually popped in just when I was browsing some other thing – so I googled the name, and began reading Madeleine’s and some other similar cases, one of those was Jaycee Dugard’ case. Needless to say a little piece of my innocence was ripped off at that moment.

But then again, when I read the story, I was about twelve or thirteen, I guess, and knowing my age and her (Jaycee’s) age she was kidnapped was close – it made me feel uneasy. Plus I kind of figured she was used sexually by the man who kidnapped her, and eventhough I love biology and have basic biological aspect of woman reproduction system covered in sixth grade, I felt disturbed just reading the headline and after a quick scanning of Jaycee’s case (I got several keypoints : kidnapped, hidden, used, sexual abuse, pregnant, found, book) I closed the page. Maybe I found it disturbing because, well, I was a small town girl living in my safe little bubble, and reading this case was like peeking through a windowblinds just as the sun rise, it was new, it was scary, it can break my fragile little bubble and I was not brave enough.

Years passed, and just this month (I am nineteen now), I went to a book fair and was shifting through piles of piles of book in the biography section when I found the autobiography of Jaycee Lee Dugard. I don’t know how I still remember a case I read randomly on the Internet six or seven years ago. But I do know I need to read that book, and so I did. Here’s a little review and reflection I wrote as I was / after reading the book.

Sorry for the long introduction (and even longer time no posting). Here you go.

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Jaycee’s case was an unusual one. Kidnapped at the mere age of eleven, she lost her virginity to the abductor not long after she was snatched in that fateful day. For the first few years in captivity, she was locked inside sort of a trailerhouse in the backyard of her captor’s home (later she referred to the area as prison backyard or just backyard). I’m not gonna list what she had to face in those years, reading them was unsettling; writing them down feels impossible right now. But I’m sure you have your guess(es).

It was not until she was about fourteen and gave birth to her first daughter that she first saw the outside world again. And at that time she was too scared of the crowd, having been used to the company of only her captor Philip and wife Nancy. She gave birth to her second daughter at the age of seventeen. Some times after, she was given a false name, ‘Allissa’ and introduced to her daughters as their ‘big sister’. So that was life for her for eighteen long years, until finally the suspiciousness of the situation caught the eyes of police officers during Philip’s parole visits, and Jaycee was reunited with her family.

What I appreciate about this book is that there is no sugarcoating, Jaycee writes it as she remembers it. She even included pages from journals she wrote while in captivity. And then she also shared the aftermath of the abduction – how she coped with her situations, not only the physical and mental scars that would probably always be ther, but also the unwanted media attention, the yet new life she got, with bravery, dignity, honesty, and no hate whatsoever to what happened to her.

Reading the book requires  a lot of emotional preparation, I found myself pausing from time to time just to take a breath and calm myself down for what I just read shocked me. However, I’m glad I read this book, and even more that now I am sure you, Jaycee, are happy with your mom and sis and daughters and lovely therapist (are you still visiting dr. Rebecca?) and home, away from the media, living your life doubtless to the fullest. I wish you all the best in life.

Oh, and did I mention how BRAVE you are for writing that autobiography?

PS I realized I can’t do the review justice – you’re gonna have to read the book or watch her interviews with ABC News on youtube. I really thought I can sum up her story, I had it in my mind, but I can’t bring myself to actually type the word, it’s too hard.

 

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