Saturday, August 27, 2011

"A Stolen Life" by Jaycee Dugard Book Review

Jaycee Dugard's Story

A Stolen Life is a fascinating autobiographical account of Jaycee Dugard, an eleven-year old girl who was kidnapped in 1991 by sexual predators Phillip and Nancy Garrido and held for eighteen years. She was handcuffed and kept naked in a soundproof shed in Antioch, California, and repeatedly raped by Mr. Garrido. She eventually bore two daughters and earned the couple's trust enough to have a small measure of freedom outside the shacks in their secret backyard, but her will and personhood had become so completely overpowered, she never dared escape.

Jaycee Dugard Story

Readers will naturally have a morbid curiosity about Phillip and Nancy Garrido, but the book won't fully satisfy with information about this dysfunctional pair. Dugard does much better than that by allowing readers into her experiences as she relives them, leaving one with a profound feeling of empathy. One can't help loving this girl, so innocent and yet so strong.

However, Dugard's first book does read like a rough draft, and her publisher could have improved her writing if they had provided an editor to better guide her. For example, early on she skips to 2010 and her feelings about her biological father's cancer, which should have been reserved for a spot near the end. Also, she omits an essential part of the story, which is Garrido's mother, who lived with the Garrido's. Did this woman not notice that her son was keeping a child sex-slave in her backyard? What was her part in the deception? There is mention that when the girls were born, Nancy introduced them to her mother-in-law as kids living down the street, yet they called her "Mom." Before the old woman developed dementia, didn't she notice anything awry?

Also, an addendum chronicling the Garrido's trial and its outcome, including Jaycee's statement that her mother read in court, should have been included in the book.

Take 10% Off Your Order of $100 or More at

Jaycee Dugard Kidnapping

The most obvious lesson of Jaycee Dugard's story is the failure of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. The Garrido fiasco was a defining moment for them, and they have since changed the way the parole system operates. Dugard's victimization was foreshadowed by Garrido's earlier kidnapping and rape of Katherine Callaway Hall, yet no one made the connection or prevented him from repeating his crime.

The workings of her captor's deviant minds can also be held up for instruction. Mr. Garridos's mental compartmentalization of his sexual addiction allowed him to indulge his fantasies "in a box" and then proceed to live a normal life outside that box. He justified his actions by blaming society for misunderstanding him, and confined his victim to one so that others would be spared. And Mrs. Garrido's behavior shows how a desperate need to be loved can overrule sound judgment and decency. They also lived in isolation, not accountable to anyone. They had no friends, and in their limited contacts with people, rebelled when they did not get their way.

The most amazing lesson, though, is the triumph of Dugard. She was a human being reduced to a thing, yet her will to survive sustained her, as she learned to mute her feelings and comply with what was required. She coped by remembering her mother, cherishing a ring she still had that was a gift from her mom and the moon, which they used to watch together.

Child kidnap and rape survivors are rare, as the perpetrators often murder the evidence. How could Garrido have possibly thought the whole scenario would end well, no matter how long it would take to play out? His first conversation with Dugard may offer a clue, as she asked if she could pet his cat. Most people respond to those who like their pets, and this small incident might have given him an indication of her sweet personality, perhaps helping ensure her survival.

It is also interesting to note that the children Dugard bore seem to effect some change in Mr. Garrido. He wants them to live in the sunshine, so Dugard is finally allowed outside her prison walls. He provides a bunk bed and buys diapers, and says he doesn't want to hurt his daughter when the first one is born. Curiously, faint glimpses of natural parental affection do shine through the man.

The tragedy of Dugard's stolen life is that the natural flowering of womanhood was denied her. Today she lives in a world of women and seems to have no desire to find love, however Dugard's pure heart indicates she does have the emotional material to have a fulfilling marriage.

Another disaster is the damage done to Dugard's spirituality by Mr. Garrido's religion. She may never darken the door of a legitimate place of worship due to his influence. He used religious jargon to disguise his perversity, exhibiting no love, truth or repentance from sin. He reminds one of the Biblical story of the slave girl (Acts 16) who followed Paul the Apostle for days, crying out, "These men are servants of the Most High God." Paul was so annoyed he cast a demonic spirit out of her. Perhaps Garrido suffers from the same affliction.

There are myriads of people who haven't endured anything close to what Dugard has experienced yet suffer from the memories of people who have wronged them. These folks could learn something from Jaycee Dugard. She says, "I don't believe in hate. To me it wastes too much time. People who hate waste to much of their life hating that they miss out on all the other stuff out here. I do not choose to live my life that way. What is done is done. I am looking to the future...."

Reading A Stolen Life by Jaycee Dugard would be an inspiration to anyone. Though it has some flaws in its construction, they are overshadowed by the genuine transparency and triumphant spirit of this first-time author as she tells her gripping story.

Jaycee Dugard, A Stolen Life (New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 2011).

Read more book reviews:

No comments:

Post a Comment