“In the summer of 1991 I was a normal kid. I did normal things. I had friends and a mother who 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 survived.
A Stolen Life is my story—in my own words, in my own way, exactly as I remember it.”
Before I read A Stolen Life I saw an interview with Jaycee Dugard by Diane Sawyer, and was amazed at her inner strength and positive attitude. She didn’t act or present herself as a victim, she wasn’t full of hate or regret, but was thankful for her freedom, her family and her daughters. When I saw her autobiography at the library, I wanted to read it. If she had presented herself negatively in her interview, I probably wouldn’t have picked up her book.
She describes her abduction and subsequent abuse with candor, but as tastefully as possible. The book isn’t full of gory sexual details, but she tells you enough to understand her abductor’s sickness and that he is the father of her children. She misses her mother and sister, but rarely mentions them in her journals because it is so painful. The book tells the story of her life during her captivity, of the animals that kept her company, her tentative relationship with her abductor’s wife, the birth of her daughters, and her desire for them to learn what they were missing by not being able to attend school. She had only achieved a fifth grade education before her abduction, but when granted access to the internet for her abductor’s fledgling printing business, she found websites for homeschools that enabled her to educate her daughters beyond her own grade-level.
Her daughter’s were raised to believe she was their sister, and called her Alissa, a name she chose when she was told she could never use or speak of her real name. While she longed to be the girl’s mother in their minds, she knew that she has to cooperate with her abductor to keep her girl’s safe. Her first child was born when she was 14 yrs old, and her second child followed two year later. When she was 29 she finally admitted to concerned officers who she was, and that she was the girl’s biological mother. Her daughters were 13 and 15 at the time, and had rarely been out of the “secret backyard” that had been their home.
Her story tells of her fears and struggles after her abduction, her feelings about her abductors, her hopes to be reunited with her family, and the reunification with her family after her identity was known. She shares such a positive outlook on her life, and appreciates her freedom and opportunities that she had given up hope of having ever again.
As a mother, this story scares me nearly to death! To imagine my daughter going through what Jaycee went through is horrifying – to imagine not being with my daughter for 18 years is grievous. Its something no family should ever go through.
I rated the book a 3 out of 5. While the writing style wasn’t extremely compelling, her inner strength and love for her family made for a positive retelling of her life.