Title: A House in the Sky
Author: Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett
Originally published: 2013
This is a top shelf book.
I strongly like anyone who admits mistakes and who is willing to accept blame even in the most dire of circumstances. I have a complete respect for anyone who can share their most awful memories, the most torturous moments in their life, and still come across as forgiving, complete, and strong. There is something about a person that can tell you their darkest thoughts and moments, admit that they weren’t and still are not completely okay, and seem the better for it.
Amanda Lindhout’s memoir of her fifteen months of captivity in Somalia after being taken hostage is able to do all of that and more. Simply written in the journalistic style she had been honing in her previous trips that had marked the beginning of a budding career as a travel writer and photographer, it leaves nothing out but doesn’t dramatize. This is a tall feat for a story involving ransom, war-torn countries, religious conversions, rape, starvation, torture, escape, and multiple near-death experiences. Perhaps with all of that happening the story does not need to be any more dramatic, it is enough on its own already, but the opportunity to use hyperbolic terminology and heavily biased storytelling is there but not taken. Lindhout and Corbett manage to tell the story at face value: she is a girl who got in over her head, admittedly, and paid too heavy of a price for that mistake.
Lindhout was taken hostage with an ex-boyfriend turned friend named Nigel Brennan (who has also written a memoir of his experience) and the depiction of their relationship over the fifteen months is a perfect glimpse inside social human nature. As a woman being held captive by Islamic Somalis who are not only devout but also follow Sharia Law, it was already destined that Lindhout would be treated differently from Brennan. Lindhout’s ability to forgive Brennan for what he could not control, her trust and understanding even after she underwent the cruelest of circumstances, is something to be marveled at. If you want to know how to become a person who can trust, believe, and forgive, you should take a page from Lindhout’s book (but perhaps not literally, yeah?).
A House in the Sky is more than a memoir of captivity – it is a story of redemption, survival, and strength. What happened in the various houses they were held in over those months were, perhaps, a catalyst for so many qualities coming out in Lindhout but the fact remains that she held on to a piece of herself that many people would find too easy to let go. She found bravery and acceptance when it should have been impossible and not once in her recounting does she seem as if she knows just how incredible of a woman she is.
I was in love with this book for so much more than the harrowing, violent storyline. I was in love with it because of Lindhout and everything she came to stand for through its pages.