Book: A House In the Sky by Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett
When I was asked to review this book, I said no thanks. After all, a book about a woman captured and held by rebels in Somalia is not exactly the best book to inspire travel. Is it? When the publicist mailed me the book anyhow, I set it aside while I reviewed books that better fit A Traveler’s Library criteria. Finally, I read A House in the Sky.
Time to confess. I was wrong. In fact, if you read my list of Best Books of 2014, you saw A House in the Sky at the top of that list.
This beautifully crafted memoir, despite its unnerving and repellant parts, is a good book to inspire people to travel and experience the world.
The outline– journalist held hostage in Somalia for 460 days in 2008–definitely does not tell the whole story. Amanda Lindhout, who grew up in Alberta, Canadian always longed to be “out in the world.” In her twenties, she became a traveler and journalist who experienced this harrowing experience. Her co-writer Sara Corbett joined her in telling the story by presenting to us in a deceptively casual tone a deeply moving and inspiring and sometimes even humorous story.
Why would someone even BE in the most dangerous country on earth by choice? Isn’t that just asking for trouble? We learn enough of LIndout’s backstory to see her insatiable love of the discoveries made when traveling. We see how her passion for getting beneath the surface of a culture leads her to more and more “forbidden” places.
Then she convinces an ex-boyfriend to go to Somalia with her to cover one more war. In retrospect, she can see she was naive and unprepared. Just as she is honest and unsparing in looking at her own actions leading up to that decision, she dredges up and relives for her co-writer and her readers all the uncomfortable, devastating, horrific days of being a prisoner.
The writers depict the situation with such sharp reality that we experience something totally outside our own experience. The reader comes away feeling that they know exactly what it is like to be held in captivity in one run-down house after another by a gang of mostly adolescent boys. Of course we do not know. Not really.
But that is the art of the writing in A House in the Sky. Without glossing over the horrors, the authors present the day to day despair of the captives with enough selectivity that we think we know what they went through.
Amanda Lindhout was resourceful in captivity and never allows the captors to change who she is. Even after all this, more than a year of not knowing what the next day would hold, until privately raised funds ransom her and her fellow captive, she continues to travel.
Instead of shunning the country that was the site of her most horrendous experience, she has established an education fund for Somalia youth, Global Enrichment Foundation. She returned to Nova Scotia to study international development. Instead of focusing on the young men who tormented her, she says:
My course of study was chosen in service to another vow, one made from the depths of the Dark House–that somehow I’d find a way to honor the woman who charged into the mosque to help me after Nigel and I tried to escape, who literally threw her body over mine and fought until I was dragged out of her arms.
When I think about Somalia, I think about her.
In this interview,filmed in October 2013, Lindhout explains why she still travels, including to Somalia. Lindhout says “Travel has always been a vital part of myself…the world is at its essence a good place.” The excellent interview is 19 minutes long, but you may want to set aside time. (And it does not spoil your experience of the book.”
Note: The publisher provided the book for review, but this never influences my sharing my honest opinion with you.
I have included links to Amazon.com because it makes it easy for you to purchase the book. You need to know that although it costs you no more, I will make a few cents with every purchase through Amazon links on this site. THANKS!