A STOLEN LIFE by Jaycee Dugard

Has it really been almost 2 weeks since I posted last? Eesh.

Life. Is. Too. Busy.

I did manage to finish a book today, and am close to finishing another, so hopefully there will be some more activity here in the coming days.


The book I finished is kind of random – Jaycee Dugard’s memoir, A Stolen Life.  I bought A Stolen Life on impulse at my library’s used book sale a few weeks ago. I realize that my interest in her life is prurient, but it was an decent read. And of course there are parallels to Emma Donoghue’s Room, but A Stolen Life didn’t come from someone’s imagination the way Room did, but from someone’s horrifying life.

Jacyee Dugard was abducted en route to school when she was 11 years old. For the next 18 years, she lived in captivity in the backyard of an abusive, narcissistic and at times delusional man, Philip, and his wife Nancy. She bore two daughters while living in a series of tents and sheds in the backyard, and, despite her captor’s frequent parole checks, was never discovered.

One of the most interesting things about Dugard’s case was that she had opportunities throughout her captivity to escape, or at least to get messages to authorities that she was the missing girl whose case was known nationwide. At one point in the book, Dugard even mentions seeing her story on television. But she never made a run for it, nor even communicated to anyone that she was not Alissa, as her captors renamed her, but Jacyee Dugard. Granted, her life was very contained and always monitored, but there were opportunities. So why didn’t she even try? Dugard describes the psychological hold that Philip had on her, and the mind games and manipulation he used to keep her under his control.

A Stolen Life is of course a very sad book. (All those wasted years! And her mom!) But Dugard, who has clearly undergone a lot of therapy since her liberation in 2009, is ultimately an optimistic and hopeful person. She never got to attend high school, but she always aspired to be a writer, and while her writing is rather simple and at times grammatically challenged, A Stolen Life is powerful and compelling. I came away from the book understanding  – from her perspective – what had happened to her, and ultimately respecting her and hoping that she has a fulfilling and healthy life ahead.

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12 Comments

  • October 20, 2012 - 11:09 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for reviewing this book Gayle. I must admit it’s the kind of story where I simultaneously want to know what happened, but don’t normally want to read a whole book about. I guess I’d be more inclined to read a long magazine article on this than anything.

    I’m wondering, do you think this was the right format to tell her story? And was writing it herself the best choice? Or would her story would have been better served working with a journalist? If she always wanted to be a writer, then maybe that is enough of a reason, and she certainly more than deserves her own voice after all this time, not to mention the money she may earn. But after reading your review, I wonder if a biographer who did research on the psychology of captivity mightn’t have given you a reason to feel more passionate about recommending it. Thoughts?

    • gayle
      October 20, 2012 - 11:13 pm | Permalink

      Was my recommendation a weak one? I liked this book – didn’t mean to sound like I didn’t. I do think this was the right venue. It’s such an intensely personal story, and I don’t think it would have been as successful if it had been ghostwritten or told by someone else. She had such a unique (uniquely awful) life – I don’t see how someone else’s voice would have conveyed what it was like. The weakest parts, to me, were the ones where she incorporated what she’d learned in therapy. Perhaps it’s because I was hearing her therapist instead of her?

      • October 25, 2012 - 1:42 am | Permalink

        Probably it was just me. I got the impression that you thought the book was fine, but nothing amazing that you were dying to share with us (your loyal readers!). And since it’s not the kind of book I normally read anyway, I guess my takeaway was not to bother. But I could imagine others reading the review and feeling differently.

        As an example, I probably never would have read the Steve Jobs bio either. But everyone raved about it so much I felt I just had to. And of course, it was absolutely terrific, and completely worth trying a genre I typically skip (contemporary biography).

        So I guess I was contrasting it with that. Makes sense?
        -carol

        • gayle
          October 26, 2012 - 11:40 pm | Permalink

          No, you’re probably right. I enjoyed it, didn’t love it. It’s rare for me to give a book a really, really high recommendation. This one was good, and I’m glad I read it, but probably not as good as the Jobs bio!

  • Evelyn
    October 21, 2012 - 8:23 am | Permalink

    Gayle – Your review did make it sound like it was worth reading – but I guess one has to be in the mood for the subject matter. I haven’t read Shades of Gray (Grey?), but I imagine there are some parallels, in that both books cover psychological manipulation/holds that one man has over a woman…

    Great to see you last Sat!! -E

  • October 21, 2012 - 8:57 am | Permalink

    I bought this book the last time I was at the bookstore. I’m sure it’s going to horrify me but I feel a need to know how that young woman survived such horror.

  • October 21, 2012 - 11:28 am | Permalink

    I read this awhile ago and OMG what that girl went through is unbelievable. But it truly shows how resilient and strong she is to be able to go through that trauma and still be as put-together and determined as she is. An amazing story.

  • October 22, 2012 - 11:19 am | Permalink

    I saw the TV interview and it just broke my heart. She seemed very positive and optimistic but I felt for her mother, who lost her child and can never get those years back. I can’t believe what Jaycee was forced to endure and then to think that she was even made to be a mother during her time in captivity just breaks my heart even more.

    • gayle
      October 22, 2012 - 10:38 pm | Permalink

      It is very sad, and I too was impressed with how positive she was.

  • October 22, 2012 - 6:15 pm | Permalink

    I love that you said it’s grammatically challenged. I’m quite intrigued by her story, but am usually somewhat trepidatious about celebrity memoirs. You’ve definitely intrigued me–as has her story. Maybe I’ll sneak this one in over Thanksgiving break.

    • gayle
      October 22, 2012 - 10:38 pm | Permalink

      I was able to get past the grammar.

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