A Stolen Life: A Memoir, Jaycee Dugard ($24.99)
When Jaycee Dugard was eleven years old, she was abducted from a school bus stop within sight of her home in South Lake Tahoe, California. She was missing for more than eighteen years, held captive by Phillip Craig and Nancy Garrido, and gave birth to two daughters during her imprisonment. On August 26, 2009, Garrido showed up for a meeting with his parole officer; he brought Jaycee, her daughters, and his wife Nancy with him. Their unusual behavior raised suspicions and an investigation revealed the tent behind the Garridos’ home where Jaycee had been living for nearly two decades.
A Stolen Life was written by Jaycee herself and covers the period from the time of her abduction in 1991 up until the present. In her stark, compelling narrative, she opens up about what she experienced—and offers an extraordinary account of courage and resilience.
In the summer of June of 1991, I was a normal kid. I did normal things. I had friends and a mother that loved me. I was just like you. Until the day my life was stolen.
For eighteen years I was a prisoner. I was an object for someone to use and abuse. For eighteen years I was not allowed to speak my own name. I became a mother and was forced to be a sister. For eighteen years I survived an impossible situation.
On August 26, 2009, I took my name back. My name is Jaycee Lee Dugard. I don’t think of myself as a victim, I simply survived an intolerable situation. A Stolen Life is my story—in my own words, in my own way, exactly as I remember it.
Everyone knows the unbelievable story of Jaycee Lee Dugard and is probably, like me, intrigued by it. It’s almost too preposterous to believe; if it were a movie, I’d most likely roll my eyes at the plot, dismissing it as being too “out there.”
But, as we know, it’s completely within the realm of possibility and it is 100% true. A Stolen Life is mesmerizing, on many levels — that all this took place over the course of almost two decades without ever being discovered, that Dugard was willing (and able) to bare her soul and speak about the atrocities that she went through, that Dugard wrote this book so eloquently (in spite of not attending school since the age of 11), that Dugard comes across as a well-adjusted and warm-hearted woman who is at peace with her life.
A Stolen Life is one of those books that a) you can’t put down and b) you won’t forget. While Dugard does mention the sexual, physical, and emotional abuse she endured, it is not gratuitous nor does it play a major role in the book. Her words convey a sense of hope and promise, which is utterly amazing, given her circumstances. For instance, there is this passage:
“In my heart I do not hate Phillip [Garrido]. I don’t believe in hate. To me it wastes too much time. People who hate waste so much of their life hating that they miss out on all the other stuff out there. I do not choose to live my life that way…If all my heart was filled up with hate and regrets and what ifs, then what else would it have room for?”
Wow. That’s a powerful statement, coming from a woman who has every reason to hate. Yet, she doesn’t even hate the man who victimized her. Amazing.
Dugard also tries to explain why she didn’t escape — one question that people raised after the news broke.
“One of the reasons I stayed was I wanted my kids to be safe. The outside world was scary for me. I was so afraid that if I left or tried to leave and take them both with me, I wouldn’t be able to protect them. I knew they were so safe in the backyard; I didn’t have to worry about anyone taking them like I was taken.”
A Stolen Life is a story about hope, not a story about the horrors of abduction and abuse. If you’re looking for a book that will touch your heart and give you a new outlook on life, this is one of those books.
Jaycee Dugard has also founded The JAYC Foundation, an organization with the message “Just Ask Yourself to Care.” The goal of The JAYC Foundation is to provide services to help heal families that have suffered trauma.
I was not compensated for writing this book review nor did I receive a copy of the book to facilitate my review.