There probably isn't a living breathing adult in the US who hasn't heard of Jaycee Dugard. Her story is one that defies logic, and toys with one's emotions, even from the arm's-length perspective of someone watching the evening news.
In 1991, Jaycee, 11 years old, was kidnapped while walking home from school. She literally disappeared from the face of the earth...no clues, no body, no ransom note. After time passed, it had to be assumed that she was dead. Through a series of bizarre events, she was discovered alive but held physically and emotionally captive by a couple named Phillip and Nancy Garrido for 18 years. Jaycee had given birth to two children fathered by Phillip, aged 11 and 15.
It is the kind of story that makes you shake your head, and leaves you with so many questions. Why didn't she try to escape? How could another woman be accessory to this kind of abuse to a little girl? What is Jaycee's state of mind after suffering like that for 18 years? What kind of horrors must she have endured? Will she ever be normal again?
I did not watch Jaycee's interview with Diane Sawyer or other various appearances that she made. I can't say why. I'm just not sure I wanted to hear what happened, having a young daughter myself. I just wasn't ready. But recently, I began hearing about this memoir that Jaycee had written, and felt like the time was right now, two years later.
Synopsis: In what is obviously an effort to exorcise her demons, Jaycee reveals to us exactly what happened to her, starting with the day she was abducted. Some of the recollections come from memory, some from a journal she kept during her captivity. She relives the repeated rapes starting when she was 11, the "runs" where Phillip would get high on drugs and engage in roll play and bizarre sex acts with Jaycee for days straight. She talks of his mental illness, and her reliance upon him and his wife for all of her needs, believing she would not be able to survive in the world on her own.
For a little girl who had her youth snatched from her in the worst possible way, Jaycee delivers her story in a very matter-of-fact tone, with a clear vision and belief in herself. She found strength in thinking of her mother, in small pets that she would keep, and her two daughters. Throughout her story, she will stop at times and share a reflection on a particular event that she has just talked about or a certain emotion, demonstrating just how far she has come in understanding herself and her captors' derangement.
Jaycee wraps up her story with her rescue and recovery. It is the reader's reward for struggling through the horrors of Jaycee's 18 years in captivity. This is one story with a happy ending.
My thoughts: Whether you are a fan of memoirs or not, this is one that you must read. It is maddening to listen to what these two animals did to this sweet little girl. When Jaycee explains that Phillip justifies this actions by saying that she (Jaycee) is helping him fix his sexual problems, and that she is keeping him from hurting other girls, I wanted to get a baseball bat and bludgeon him. He deserves every minute of the 431 years of prison he was sentenced. His wife is no better, in my opinion, even though she never sexually molested Jaycee.
But despite the horror I experienced in listening to what Jaycee endured, I was also filled with admiration and wonder at how well-adjusted she is. She is an honest, and strong and incredibly brave young woman. It is this fierceness of spirit that you sometimes see in those who survived the Holocaust...a steel will. It fills me with joy to hear that she is receiving therapy (some of it taking place on a horse farm and involves working with animals).
While listening to this audio, I was reminded over and over again of one of my favorite books from a couple of years ago, "Room", which was published after Jaycee's rescue, but before the details became public. It is eerie how similar the stories were.
Jaycee's writing is not literary, it is simple, and what you would expect from a young woman whose schooling only went through 5th grade. What matters is that her words come from the heart.
A few words about the audio production: In another act of bravery, Jaycee chose to narrate this book herself. She did an excellent job, and while she kept her emotions in check, you could hear the slight tremor in her voice when she spoke of certain things, as well as a steely resolve. I am very appreciative that she made this decision, as I believe it lent the story that tiny little extra something.
4.5 out of 5 stars