As an avid follower of the Jaycee Dugard abduction case, I was eager to pick up her personal account of her 18-year ordeal in the hands of demented kidnapper Phillip Garrido and his wife, Nancy. Unlike the countless news reports and documentaries on the case, A Stolen Life is told in her own words, in her own voice, with a compelling narrative that will leave you breathless.
Jaycee lets readers know right off the bat that this memoir tends to be scattered in thought and disjointed at times, for her memories of the ordeal remain fragmented, and she’s still sorting it out in her mind. Indeed it does jump back and forth in time, and takes readers on an emotional roller coaster from Jaycee’s vivid recollections of the abduction and sexual abuse to the birth of her two daughters to her eventual rescue. Part of the story is told through a series of journal entries, which express a range of mixed emotion from fear to anger to confusion to a longing to return home. Yet no matter where the narration takes us, always consistent is an ebbing and flowing sense of hope to be rescued, as well as an indomitable will to survive.
In addition to details of the trauma she sustained, Jaycee incorporates some pleasant childhood memories into her book, which serve to portray the innocence of her 11-year-old self before her abduction. Her transition from a carefree girl playing with Barbie dolls to a captive sex slave is truly chilling, and her mental and emotional recovery provokes admiration for her resilience and strength.
Jaycee also comments on the failure of Garrido’s parole officers and his psychiatrist to take action when needed; for not monitoring him close enough or getting him proper medical attention, thereby enabling his behavior and allowing Jaycee to suffer. For example, during the many times parole officers did rounds at Garrido’s house, they failed to search the home thoroughly and didn’t bother with the backyard, where Jaycee and her daughters were being kept. The major question underlying all this is why Garrido, a convicted rapist, was let out of prison after already proving himself to be a repeat offender. There’s no doubt that Jaycee’s story has raised some important questions about these systems and will likely inspire activists to push for stricter laws when it comes to providing parole and monitoring former convicts.
Simultaneously hard to read and hard to put down, A Stolen Life resonates with a sense of triumph over unimaginable hardships. There are few more satisfying memoirs out there today, so I advise you to pass on Bristol Palin’s and pick this one up instead. Her story is one that needs to be told.