REVIEW: A Stolen Life: A Memoir

Book by Jaycee Dugard

When Jaycee Dugard appeared on TV in an interview with Diane Sawyer last July, her poise was astonishing. The California woman was kidnapped at age 11, held captive for 18 years, and raped repeatedly by her captor, Phillip Garrido. Dugard calmly acknowledged that certain sounds still haunt her—locks clicking, beds squeaking. She radiated compassion for her own children, to whom she gave birth when she was 14 and 17, and both of whom were fathered by Garrido. So dignified, so down-to-earth, so…normal. At least one viewer wondered: how is that possible?

Her new memoir sheds some light. In it, Dugard is candid about the horrors she endured, perhaps the worst of which were Garrido’s “runs”—long nights during which he binged on drugs and videotaped Dugard performing sex acts on him. But the book’s recurring theme is Dugard’s quiet determination, throughout her imprisonment, to love and be loved—not in relation to Garrido and his wife, Nancy, but with everyone else she met—a daddy-long-legs who lived above her makeshift toilet; the various cats she was allowed to keep as pets; eventually, her daughters. Perhaps Dugard’s most sanity-saving attachment was to her own mother, whom she never once stopped longing for. “I miss her,” she wrote plainly, year after year, in her journal. “Does she miss me?”

Over time, Garrido allowed Dugard into the backyard and even out in public—sometimes there were “family” excursions (Dugard was made to call Nancy “mom” and pretend she was her daughters’ sister). By then, she was so programmed by Garrido that she could barely make eye contact with anyone, let alone reach out for help. Still, readers can’t help but wonder, why did she never try to run? Sawyer pressed Dugard, but Dugard held her ground. She doesn’t know, and it doesn’t matter. She survived. How many of us would have?

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