This review originally appeared on Epinions.com. I see a lot of people looking for the review that I linked to there, but the review is no longer available on that site. I am reposting it here for your perusal.
This was Amanda Lindhout's second experience as a hostage...
While in Iraq, trying to launch her journalism career, Amanda Lindhout was abducted by Iraqis in Sadr City. She was held for a few hours until she was able to pay a ransom for her own release. One would think after just one abduction, a young woman might think twice about visiting dangerous countries without proper security. But Lindhout was stubborn and ambitious. She decided to try her luck in Somalia, inviting her former boyfriend, Nigel Brennan (who also wrote a book-- click the link to read my review), to join her for the ill fated trip. The two were on their third day in Somalia when they and their Somali translator, Abdifatah Mohammed Elmi, their driver, Mahad Isse, and a driver from the Shamo Hotel, Marwali,†were captured by insurgents from the Hizbal Islam fundamentalist group.
460 days of hell
With help from ghostwriter Sara Corbett, Lindhout describes how she and Brennan, who was a photographer, were on their way to conduct interviews for a story when they were stopped by gunmen. It was August 23, 2008. The insurgents were demanding a ransom for $3 million for their release, a sum that neither Lindhout's nor Brennan's families were able to pay immediately. The ransom was eventually reduced substantially and was raised by friends, family, and strangers of Lindhout's and Brennan's alike. Meanwhile, Lindhout and Brennan found themselves doing all they could to humanize themselves in their captors' eyes, even going as far as to convert to Islam.
A House in the Sky is, on many levels, a fascinating story. I found myself relating to Lindhout, since when I was her age, I had a desire to launch a career and visit exotic countries abroad. On the other hand, I never had ambition strong enough to make me want to visit a place like Somalia. In 2008 and 2009, Somalia was always in the news because desperate pirates had been attacking ships that got too close to the Somali coastline.
Amanda Lindhout and Nigel Brennan were beaten and starved. Lindhout was repeatedly raped, gang-raped, and tortured. 100 days into her captivity, Lindhout was taken to a remote location, where her captors threatened to slit her throat. After an unsuccessful escape attempt, Lindhout and Brennan were separately kept isolated in chains in a pitch black house, where Lindhout relates being forced to lie still in the dark for months. I made the mistake of reading about the bulk of Lindhout's experiences as I was trying to fall asleep last night. It took a long while to be able to relax enough to drop off, even after I took a couple of Advil PMs.
Even as Lindhout describes how she was treated by certain members of the insurgent group, Lindhout also manages to allow glimpses of their humanity to color her story. In fact, Lindhout even relates how one very brave and kind-hearted Somali woman tried to save her when she and Brennan managed to escape. Lindhout's ability to see the more positive aspects of her situation gives her story an interesting complexity and makes it more compelling. Frankly, some of the more graphic stories in this book were difficult to read.
While I can't decide if I think Lindhout is very brave or just very foolish, I can't deny that her experiences being held hostage have certainly led to an exciting career. In 2010, Lindhout founded the Global Enrichment Foundation, which offers scholarship opportunities to Somali women. She has also been back to Somalia; in 2011, she returned with a large convoy with enough food for 14,000 people in the southern Somali town of Dobely. She is now a respected public speaker and has won awards for her humanitarian efforts. I know this experience has helped Lindhout launch a career, but I wonder if it was worth it, given all she went through.
I think Amanda Lindhout's book is definitely worth reading, though I would not recommend reading it before bedtime. I think it rates a solid four stars-- and I think my next book will be something a bit lighter.
Click for more information about Global Enrichment Foundation.