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Review: "A House in the Sky," by Amanda Lindhout


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First, let me state that this is an interesting story. It brings the reader closer into the details and specifics of being taken for ransom in one of the disturbing locales around the world, in this case Mogadishu, Somalia. The complexity, contradiction and often inhumane aspects of Muslim culture as interpreted by individuals were clearly delineated and often difficult to read. Would it not be interesting to read an account from a kidnapper, not one that is filled with Islamic rhetoric but an honest and open piece, if that is possible. (I'm not suggesting there is a counter-argument to the author's story, but I'd love to hear a reasoned of how the kidnappers see their world and the justification for this action.

That said, let me act the critic here and start throwing stones. First, there is a seasoned, professional, not quite ghost, co-author/writer attached to this project. To be completely honest, I feel a breakdown between the "author" - who lived the story, and the co-author, who I think penned it. To me it feels like there might have been many interviews with copious notes taken, than written by the co-author, and reviewed and O.K.'d by the author. It feels like a reporter wrote this. There's a dis-connect to the story, between the facts (true, I believe) and the fluency (not true, too poetic at times.)

Next, after awhile I began to feel a misrepresentation regarding the main character. Portrayed as a free-loving, free-wheeling, enthusiastic embracer of all things about travel and cultures, it began to grow on me that she might have been, at the best, foolhardy, immature and self-centered, and at the worst, hedonistic, promiscuous and simply stupid and naive. In an effort to "see" and "experience" many different cultures she made bad decisions, went to ridiculously unsafe locations, and probably could/should have been kidnapped a dozen times.

Unfortunately, and this is truly sad, I feel like I completely know this story already. Whether it was Daniel Pearl, or many of the other tales of kidnapping victims, I expected everything from poor living conditions, brutality, even rape, lack of health, nutrition, exercise, constant fear, humiliation, complete and total sexism and possible threat of murder constantly. Perhaps this is even the sadder state of the world that I was not surprised in the least. There have always been kidnappers and abusers of one form or another. We're these kidnappers more civilized then Dickensian orphanages, sex-abusing priests, serial killers? In some respects they were. These particular kidnappers were in it for the money and a belief in a religious jihad.

I could go on but I have thrown enough stones. I'm practically certain it will become a movie and if the right actress is chosen she will receive an Academy Award nomination. Did I enjoy the "read"? Yes. Would I recommend it? No.