A House in the Sky

A House in the Sky: A Memoir Of A Kidnapping That Changed Everything

by Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett

Overview: Amanda Lindhout wrote about her fifteen month abduction in Somalia in A House in the Sky. It is the New York Times bestselling memoir of a woman whose curiosity led her to the world’s most remote places and then into captivity: “Exquisitely told…A young woman’s harrowing coming-of-age story and an extraordinary narrative of forgiveness and spiritual triumph” (The New York Times Book Review).

As a child, Amanda Lindhout escaped a violent household by paging through issues of National Geographic and imagining herself visiting its exotic locales. At the age of nineteen, working as a cocktail waitress, she began saving her tips so she could travel the globe. Aspiring to understand the world and live a significant life, she backpacked through Latin America, Laos, Bangladesh, and India, and emboldened by each adventure, went on to Sudan, Syria, and Pakistan. In war-ridden Afghanistan and Iraq she carved out a fledgling career as a television reporter. And then, in August 2008, she traveled to Somalia—“the most dangerous place on earth.” On her fourth day, she was abducted by a group of masked men along a dusty road.

Held hostage for 460 days, Amanda survives on memory—every lush detail of the world she experienced in her life before captivity—and on strategy, fortitude, and hope. When she is most desperate, she visits a house in the sky, high above the woman kept in chains, in the dark.

Gail Reid (01/28/16): Amanda Lindhout is a young woman from rural Canada with a passion for travel. With a tough childhood behind her, she works in high-end restaurants to save for travel to distant places and cultures familiar to her through old copies of National Geographic. With no formal training in journalism, she begins freelance reporting in Iraq and sees a niche for herself in war-ravaged Somalia, considered among the most dangerous countries in the world.

The first third of the book is about her extensive travel, experiences and relationships and builds to the situation in Somalia, where on her 4th day she and her friend are kidnapped and held hostage for 460 days. Much of the time she is held in isolation, often starving, abused and raped while the captors attempt to extort the families for ransom. Amanda is unquestionably strong and resilient and under the guise of having converted to Islam seems to escape death many times.

This is a difficult read in any context. Amanda sometimes writes about a few small gestures that illustrate some humanity on the part of her captors but overall the barbarity is unconscionable. While you may admire her idealism in attempting to report on the people of these nations at war, you may also question her naivete in pursuing her goals. 3+
Rating: ***+

Ricki Brodie (04/16/14): WOW. I have not read a book that blew me away as this one did. Amanda Lindhout grew up within a poor, dysfunctional and abusive environment. She and her brother would dumpster dive for change which she spent on “National Geographics” marveling at the world. At eighteen she leaves a rural town for the big city of Alberta, Canada. There she takes a lucrative job as a cocktail waitress to earn money to travel the world. She would repeat this process six times. She visited South America first then headed to countries including India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sudan and Syria. In Afghanistan she met Nigel Brennan, an Aussie with whom she became involved. He was starting out as a photojournalist and gave Amanda the idea to do likewise to help fund her adventures. She took a job with an Iranian TV station in Iraq.

At the age of 27, she invites Nigel to rejoin her as she decides to go to Somalia fully aware that there was no government to speak of and warlords and gangs ruled. She believes she has taken necessary precautions by hiring a fixer and security. However, within 4 day, she and Nigel are captured. They spent 460 days in captivity being guarded by a group of young boys who spend their days reading the Koran, watching jihad training videos and videos of people being tortured and killed, and talking on their mobile phones. Amanda and Nigel “convert” to Islam in the hope of getting better treatment. The kidnappers want $3 million dollars. Amanda’s mother makes minimum wage and her father is on disability.

At a certain point, the starvation gets worse and the brutalization is unimaginable. But with all of this Amanda is a survivor and can speak with some compassion about her captives. She is inspiring and presents a realistic portrait of herself and her self-discovery through the grueling ordeal. This is an amazing story of resilience and hope. 5
Rating: *****

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