A Stolen Life: A Memoir Info

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An instant #1 New York Times bestseller—Jaycee
Dugard’s raw and powerful memoir, her own story of being kidnapped
in 1991 and held captive for more than eighteen years.

In the
summer of June of 1991, I was a normal kid. I did normal things. I had
friends and a mother that 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 simply survived an
intolerable situation. A Stolen Life is my story—in my own
words, in my own way, exactly as I remember it.

Average Ratings and Reviews
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Reviews for A Stolen Life: A Memoir:

4

Jul 14, 2011

This is a monumental book in many ways. It's one of the few times that a victim of prolonged sexual imprisonment has come forth to tell her story, and the importance of having a record of this first-hand account cannot be discounted. Jaycee Dugard was kidnapped at the age of 11 and held captive for 18 years while a man repeatedly raped her and had her bear two of his children. She was miraculously freed at the age of 29 and, two years later, seems to be overall pretty well-adjusted and happy.

This is a monumental book in many ways. It's one of the few times that a victim of prolonged sexual imprisonment has come forth to tell her story, and the importance of having a record of this first-hand account cannot be discounted. Jaycee Dugard was kidnapped at the age of 11 and held captive for 18 years while a man repeatedly raped her and had her bear two of his children. She was miraculously freed at the age of 29 and, two years later, seems to be overall pretty well-adjusted and happy.

I've read a fair amount on this subject, but it's still very painful to read about Jaycee's story. One of the awful things about her situation is that her captor was "nice" to her when he wasn't assaulting her, sobbing and apologizing profusely, and telling her she was "helping him" with his problem. The confusion of dealing with that must do untold amounts of damage, since if someone is always monstrous, it's much easier to look upon him as the enemy. While it's natural to wonder about these things, it has always troubled me when I hear strongly worded questions about why victims in these situations don't try harder to escape. I think it's very difficult to imagine the amount of physical and psychological fear and confusion that these individuals undergo, as well as the coping mechanisms that they must use in order to simply survive. Through Jaycee's words, it's possible to come closer to understanding how someone in a devastating situation is relentlessly conditioned into doing a dominant person's bidding--and how her reality changed so much that she began to look upon being separated from her captor with crippling fear of the unknown.

While I am glad that readers have a chance to read Jaycee's story, it does worry me that it comes so soon after her release in 2009. Elizabeth Smart has similarly just signed on to be a commentator for ABC News, and it makes you wonder if Elisabeth Fritzl can be too far behind. I cannot even begin to imagine the kind of damage this kind of violence and depravity does to someone, let alone a child whose character hadn't even been fully formed at the time of her kidnapping. It troubles me to think that in our insistent need for information and our need for heroic stories in this modern age, we may unintentionally be harming these poor women with the pressure to present a pulled-together, picture-perfect image for our benefit.

But perhaps I don't give enough credit to their strength. While there is a great deal of pain in reading Jaycee's story as you relive her suffering, it is also impossible not to be moved by the resiliency of the human spirit. The joy she took in the pets that came and went over the years; her attempts to stay positive, chronicled through journal entries; her pleasure in the birth of her "beautiful baby girls." One of the things that touched me the most was the notion that a child of 17--with a fifth grade education--was determined to provide some sort of education and future for her two children by downloading daily lesson plans and teaching them herself. It speaks to an extraordinary spirit, as well as to the extraordinary capacity of the human heart.

The fact that these kinds of violent acts happen in the world are incredibly shameful and tragic. In sharing her story, however, Jaycee Dugard has helped many readers to see that human beings can and do survive impossible situations...and that it's important to appreciate the many precious freedoms that we so often take for granted.

A note about the book: This is an incredible piece of testimony to a shocking perpetuation of violence against a human being. I am glad that the publishers chose to keep Jaycee's young voice, which sounds unspoiled and unguarded in a surprising and touching way. There were some editorial missteps, however, that I felt detracted from the book quite a bit, including leaving in inconsistent tenses, confusing timelines, and switching back and forth perhaps a little too often between past and present for a fairly short book. Addressing these issues would have streamlined the book immensely, and it's puzzling that more efforts weren't made to provide a better framework for the story.

Additional Reading:
Readers who are interested in exploring other books with similar topics might consider Living Dead Girl, which is the best fictionalized story about kidnapping and imprisonment that I've read to date. I was NOT a huge fan of the much more lauded Room or the more recent Circle 9, however. ...more
5

Jul 15, 2011

I read this in one sitting. I would be concerned about anyone who could read this book without difficulty. I had to pause frequently and just breathe to compose myself, and still feel sick to my stomach when I think of what she endured. It is a horrific story and yet beautifully written. Jaycee Lee Dugard is an extraordinary young woman and courageous in the extreme, not only because she survived her ordeal with compassion for herself as a victim and hope for the future, but because she tells I read this in one sitting. I would be concerned about anyone who could read this book without difficulty. I had to pause frequently and just breathe to compose myself, and still feel sick to my stomach when I think of what she endured. It is a horrific story and yet beautifully written. Jaycee Lee Dugard is an extraordinary young woman and courageous in the extreme, not only because she survived her ordeal with compassion for herself as a victim and hope for the future, but because she tells her story in unflinching detail. It is astounding to learn that she does not hate her tormentors, that she does not want that type of negativity in her life (echoing the sentiments of many notable survivors of torture, extermination camps, extreme abuse, etc.) Amazing woman, simply amazing! What was done to her absolutely defies imagination - not only the sexual abuse and physical neglect but the extreme isolation, manipulation, and mind games. And she helps us clearly understand why she was unable to escape even after she was granted a degree of freedom. She is a hero and we all have something to learn from her story. I wish her and her family well. It's humbling to know that she shared her story with the world. ...more
2

Aug 18, 2011

Hard to read, hard to review. Please know that the two-star rating is no reflection on Ms. Dugard or my abject horror at what she experienced. But I certainly didn't really "like" it and I'm not sure I'd actually recommend it to anyone. The diction and syntax are somewhat simple, but that rang true, since her formal education stopped at 5th grade. Parts were very repetitive, the graphic details made my stomach turn, and it skipped over the time period I was most curious about.

Ms. Dugard's Hard to read, hard to review. Please know that the two-star rating is no reflection on Ms. Dugard or my abject horror at what she experienced. But I certainly didn't really "like" it and I'm not sure I'd actually recommend it to anyone. The diction and syntax are somewhat simple, but that rang true, since her formal education stopped at 5th grade. Parts were very repetitive, the graphic details made my stomach turn, and it skipped over the time period I was most curious about.

Ms. Dugard's experiences are horrific, especially the graphic descriptions of rape and Phillip's drug-fueled "runs." No 11-year-old, or anyone, should ever have to experience those things. It's beyond bizarre to me that after years of sexual abuse and rape, including two pregnancies, a weird kind of "normalcy" and "family" developed. Ms. Dugard barely skimmed over the last decade or so of her captivity and that's what I was most curious about. How did she raise her daughters in that environment (yes, I know they were told she was their sister, but still...)? How did they turn out to be so well-adjusted and how did they handle the shock to their system that "real life" must have been? How did she maintain her sense of self and sanity? Why didn't she reach out for help during an outing or online or when his parole officer came over to the house? I know there are true, deep-seated psychological explanations, but I wanted to hear it from her.

Ms. Dugard truly is remarkable. With only a 5th grade education and essentially on her own, she survived 18 years of abuse, oppression, brainwashing, and boredom, to become, by all accounts, a fairly well-adjusted, courageous, thoughtful woman. With, I'm sure, the help of many caring and competent professionals, Ms. Dugard is taking control of her life, which was denied to her for so long, and refusing to be bitter about the past. Good for her.

Ms. Dugard's story and similar ones (Elizabeth Smart, Elisabeth Fritzl) make me so paranoid. How many other missing children are being held captive, practically in plain sight, and we just aren't seeing them? And how many thousands of other children around the world are experiencing similar atrocities right now? Ms. Dugard was able to escape after 18 years, but so many children haven't and won't. It makes me want to curl up in a ball in bed and sob all day long.

For more book reviews, come visit my blog, Build Enough Bookshelves. ...more
4

May 24, 2019

If nothing else, this book definitely shows the power of hope, gratitude, and the healing power of animals.

In her own words, Jaycee Dugard recounts her life, her abduction, her abuse, and her eventual freedom from the prison of a disgusting backyard and her own fears of the world beyond it.

I read this in one sitting and was fairly enthralled throughout. Dugard has a very distinct way of writing. Very stream of consciousness, almost rambling in some ways...and almost poetic and yet cuttingly If nothing else, this book definitely shows the power of hope, gratitude, and the healing power of animals.

In her own words, Jaycee Dugard recounts her life, her abduction, her abuse, and her eventual freedom from the prison of a disgusting backyard and her own fears of the world beyond it.

I read this in one sitting and was fairly enthralled throughout. Dugard has a very distinct way of writing. Very stream of consciousness, almost rambling in some ways...and almost poetic and yet cuttingly concise in others, Dugard detailed her thoughts and emotions in a way that, although unpolished and sometimes childlike, painted a very clear emotional picture of her 18 years in captivity.

In spite of her horrific circumstances, I was overcome with wonder at her joy and gratitude whenever she talked about animals. Through the years in captivity, she was sometimes allowed to keep pets, sometimes for mere weeks, other times for years; but it warmed my heart that she was able to find comfort in the warm and unconditional love of furry and feathered friends. As a huge animal lover, I found solace knowing that she at least had that at times and, of course later, her daughters.

I don't know if I would be able to go through what Dugard went through and come out as grateful and hopeful and positive as Dugard seems to be. I don't know how I would react to being in her shoes. I hope I never find out. But either way, I am glad she and her daughters are free. And I hope her captors rot in prison. And that no one gives them a cat. ...more
2

Oct 07, 2011

I was going to give this book a 4 star rating and be done with it. Anything else felt douchey. How could you give a book about a courageous girl who kept going and kept it together and raised two girls while in an unimaginably horrible situation anything LESS than 4 stars?

But then I thought about why I was giving the book (the BOOK, not the woman, the book) 4 stars. I was doing it out of pity and sympathy. The story of Jaycee Dugard is so horrifying and tragic that I wanted to give the book 4 I was going to give this book a 4 star rating and be done with it. Anything else felt douchey. How could you give a book about a courageous girl who kept going and kept it together and raised two girls while in an unimaginably horrible situation anything LESS than 4 stars?

But then I thought about why I was giving the book (the BOOK, not the woman, the book) 4 stars. I was doing it out of pity and sympathy. The story of Jaycee Dugard is so horrifying and tragic that I wanted to give the book 4 stars just for that. (I couldn't bear to give it 5 stars, putting it right up there with the Count of Monte Cristo and White Teeth and the others. I thought 4 was more than fair as a pity vote.) And then I thought that going about it that way just wasn't fair. I was treating this book differently because the subject was so horrible and frightening - like giving any and every book about the Holocaust a 4 or 5 just because the Holocaust was so tragic.

So this is my honest rating. A 1 star rating. (After I wrote this review, when I was looking it over for the final time before submitting, I boosted it to a 2-star rating out of pity. I know.)

The book flops around a lot. To her credit, Jaycee acknowledges this in the beginning and says it was all a part of her process. I have no quarrel with that whatsoever, but as a reader experiencing a book for the first time, it's distracting and cconfusing.

The book is also rambling, as if it could have benefited from a good editor. I do not enjoy rambling books. As for the writing style itself (I hate myself for saying this), it's juvenile and stilted. This is understandable: the girl was snatched away when she was 11, for crying out loud. She never had a chance to continue her schooling. But that doesn't change the writing style of the book; it just explains it. A co-writer or ghost-writer could have fixed this nicely, but I bet writing this was part of Jaycee's healing process, so again, it's understandable.

I know I come off as heartless. I know I sound like a terrible person. But I also felt pretty terrible giving this book a 4 star rating ONLY because I felt so sorry for the author and was so horrified by everything she had to endure at the hands of those monsters.
I know I ...more
3

Jun 30, 2011

I, along with the rest of the world, waited for this book. And I have to say I'm disappointed. According to the info I found on line Dugard did indeed have "help" writing this book. What kind of help I don't know because it's obvious most of us couldn't tell when reading A Stolen Life. Apparently, a Rebecca Bailey, who is a "post-trauma family reunification specialist" is who helped with this book. I couldn't tell.
I tried not to be too hard on the writing while reading because of who the author I, along with the rest of the world, waited for this book. And I have to say I'm disappointed. According to the info I found on line Dugard did indeed have "help" writing this book. What kind of help I don't know because it's obvious most of us couldn't tell when reading A Stolen Life. Apparently, a Rebecca Bailey, who is a "post-trauma family reunification specialist" is who helped with this book. I couldn't tell.
I tried not to be too hard on the writing while reading because of who the author is and what she went through. She didn't go to school like she would have had she not been kidnapped, etc. But the fact remains that I just can't believe Simon & Schuster deemed this fit for publishing.
The story isn't lacking. The story is what happened to Dugard. That can't be "lacking" if it's the truth. I believe it is. But the writing is severely lacking and there's only so much 'looking past' one can do.
The failed chances to rescue Dugard? There were some. But some of the "chances" the police "had" weren't really chances. For instance, the police were supposed to search Garrido's home on the basis that Dugard was kidnapped in the same city/town as another woman in 1976? I'm willing to bet women were murdered and kidnapped in that town also, does that mean it was Garrido or that he should have been searched? No. That's not a missing "chance".
The police going to Garrido's and not inspecting his yard? Yes, missing chance. Garrido slipping through the cracks of probation and parole? Yes, missing chance.
But just because there are *some* missing chances doesn't mean we can make any and everything into a failed "chance" IMO.
Believe me, I blame the police for their failures in this and everything else they fail at. I believe in blame being squarely placed. But I can't believe in that and then place blame where it doesn't belong.
One very large missed chance is when a neighbor of Garrido's actually called 911 to report children living in tents in Garrido's backyard. The police deputy who reported apparently talked to Garrido at the front door and left without checking the backyard. That, my friends, is a missed chance and that alone is absolutely horrendous. That alone shows how much society wants to protect the criminal and not the victim(s).
But oh, the police "apologized". That's classic. "Uh, hey, listen Jaycee, I'm REALLY sorry you were held throughout so much of your childhood, all of your teens and a good portion of adulthood. I'm sorry that you were raped, abused, impregnated, withheld from your family, friends, life in general and that we 'missed the chance' to protect you and save you. I'm, uh, really sorry about that."
Fuck you. I hope she said that to the bastards. FUCK YOU.
In 2002 paramedics responded to Garrido's because of a child with a shoulder injury from a swimming accident. Nevermind that Garrido shouldn't have had children on his property. Probation and Parole was never notified.
Nevermind that his probation and parole officer SAW children IN his home. Oh, those were his brothers kids! Duh! Well, alrighty then. Who the HELL CARES. It ain't me in trouble.
Another note I made while reading:
This is just a note to parents and caregivers who tend to think stuff like this doesn't happen. Dugard relates in here how Garrido and his wife would drive to school playgrounds and parks and videotape little girls. The wife would even talk to them at times, get them to do splits and to sit with their legs apart so Garrido could get "good" shots. She even had a whole cut out of one of her purses for a video camera. Beware. That shit is REAL scary. None of these little girls were "hurt" in the usual sense but I know I don't want some pervert taking advantage of my daughters innocence to get her to sit with her legs open and then use that recorded video for his own disgusting, perverted pleasure.
Basically, the story here is a unique one but it's told in a way that's sort of aggravating, most likely because of her lack of early education.
I do hope this was cathartic for her and I hope she lives a wonderful life, her and her entire family.
I hope Garrido, his disgusting p.o.s. wife, and all of the police who actively failed Dugard burn in hell. ...more
5

Aug 01, 2011

I am definately going to hug my children a little tighter and make sure I remember the promises I make to them after reading this book. I remember seeing Jaycee's face on missing posters and praying for her when I was a teenager. I also remember the day I was watching the news and heard the news of incredible discovery. While I was reading this book I could not stop thinking about when I was eleven years old. Jaycee does a wonderful job of showing exactly how her life was stolen. I guess because I am definately going to hug my children a little tighter and make sure I remember the promises I make to them after reading this book. I remember seeing Jaycee's face on missing posters and praying for her when I was a teenager. I also remember the day I was watching the news and heard the news of incredible discovery. While I was reading this book I could not stop thinking about when I was eleven years old. Jaycee does a wonderful job of showing exactly how her life was stolen. I guess because I am only few years older than Jaycee I can't help but think of all that has happened in my life during the last 18 years. This book although it was a quick read was by no means an easy read. Jaycee is an amazing young women. At one point in the book she describes herself as a coward but in my oppinion she is anything but. She is one bravest women I can think of. After reading her story I was able to see just how much of a psycological hold her abducters had over her. Thier is so much I want to say about this book but I just can't wrap my mind around it all at this time so I will be writting more as I sort through everything.

O.k it's been a couple days since I have read this one and I have had some time to digest things. I'm so angry at the system for failing her. I can't help but feel like not only was she victimized by her captors but by the system who was put in place to protect her (all of us really). I can understand missing her on one or even two of the visits but over eighteen years is just ridiculous. Probation officers came to that house over sixty times during her captivity why in all those times did'nt they just one check the backyard. The neighbor even called the cops to report that children where living in tents in the backyard. When the sherrif came to ivestigate he never bothered to go into the backyard, once again I am left wondering WHY.

Jaycee's story has definately made me loose faith in the so called system. I look at my three little girls and feel all the more need to protect them. I'm so proud of Jaycee for surviving not only physically but mentally to. I really liked the part about the reunification process. I honestly was very naive about what reuniting her with her family would entail. I think of all she lost during those eighteen years and its mindblowing. I want to thank her therapist for doing such a wonderful job with helping her. I do wish she would have talked a little more about how her daughters felt when they found out everything but I do understand her need to protect them. I can't wait to see her build her foundation and rebuild her life. ...more
5

Aug 22, 2011

The five stars are not for the literary value of this book, but for the honest telling of what these 18 stolen years were like for Jaycee Dugard. I am glad she allowed us to read this story in her own words, and not some smooth, glossy version of her story written by a ghost writer. The simple language enhanced this book in my opinion. You really felt the presence of that young girl reliving her story.

This is a remarkable young lady with more strength than I can imagine ever having. I feel we The five stars are not for the literary value of this book, but for the honest telling of what these 18 stolen years were like for Jaycee Dugard. I am glad she allowed us to read this story in her own words, and not some smooth, glossy version of her story written by a ghost writer. The simple language enhanced this book in my opinion. You really felt the presence of that young girl reliving her story.

This is a remarkable young lady with more strength than I can imagine ever having. I feel we each owe it to her to read her story. For 18 years she was not able to honestly express what she was thinking and what she was feeling. She felt invisible. This is her way of saying I exist, this is who I am, and I have no reason to be ashamed. I also support her desire to not let her abductor get away with his belief that the world would never know the details of what he did. This book is a way to help give Jaycee back her life and her voice.

In this country that does not honor its children, allows pedophiles to revictimize again and again, and then turns them free to victimize again, we owe the vicitms the respect of listening to their story. The number of times that probation officers actually saw young girls in the home of this known sex offender and never pursued verifying who they were and why there were there is beyond belief, and yet it is true. When are we as a country going to stand up for our children. I would say this book would be too difficult to read for parents whose children who are still under 18 years of age. ...more
5

Apr 20, 2015

I read this book in one day. I was captured by Jaycee's words and her story. She endured so much and was such a brave woman. I probably would have given up, but she pressed on and loved to tell a tale that no one could even think to write for fiction!
5

Feb 02, 2014

I haven't read a memoir of this kind before. They're so hard to read. This need not be a literary review but a review of this woman's story, and I've rated it a full 5 stars.

Like most of us I'd heard about this over the years, but didn't consider reading her memoir until I stumbled across it in a second hand bookshop just last week. Jaycee Dugard has done an amazing job telling us her story. It would have been tremendously hard to do.

Right from the start she did tell us it will be a bit I haven't read a memoir of this kind before. They're so hard to read. This need not be a literary review but a review of this woman's story, and I've rated it a full 5 stars.

Like most of us I'd heard about this over the years, but didn't consider reading her memoir until I stumbled across it in a second hand bookshop just last week. Jaycee Dugard has done an amazing job telling us her story. It would have been tremendously hard to do.

Right from the start she did tell us it will be a bit disjointed and she might go off onto different tangents, but this is to be expected and I didn't mind her writing style at all. She's done so well for not having attended school since the age of 11. I love that she loved to write as she was held captive and always had a love for reading.

She's a gracious and forgiving lady, and the fact that she's emerged this way is outstanding. She has formed an organisation to help people deal with events such as she's experienced, and anyone receiving help from her will be a lucky person, as she seems to have an amazing character after her horrific life circumstances.

I sincerely hope Jaycee Dugard is proud of her work in telling her story.



...more
3

Jul 16, 2011

When Jaycee Dugard was first found, my fascination with her case originally grew out of a desire to better understand another famous kidnapping victim who had been in a somewhat similar situation: Elisabeth Fritzl. But I have stayed interested for one major reason: Ms. Dugard has been incredibly adept at keeping control over her own story and maintaining her agency at all times. This book can be seen as the culmination of those efforts, since Ms. Dugard has written her own book about her own When Jaycee Dugard was first found, my fascination with her case originally grew out of a desire to better understand another famous kidnapping victim who had been in a somewhat similar situation: Elisabeth Fritzl. But I have stayed interested for one major reason: Ms. Dugard has been incredibly adept at keeping control over her own story and maintaining her agency at all times. This book can be seen as the culmination of those efforts, since Ms. Dugard has written her own book about her own experiences rather than letting journalists write them (or worse: not letting journalists write them but watching them get written anyway).

Don't read it out of prurient interest, in other words. If you know anything about what was said in the media when she was found, there's probably nothing about the details of her captivity that will surprise you anyway. The actual remarkable part is Ms. Dugard's agency, which is all over this book. No one made her write it; she decided to. No one told her which experiences to share and which ones to keep private; that was her decision. And all of the reflections on her experiences are in her own voice, because she wrote every word herself. ...more
4

Apr 22, 2017

Although written by a woman with limited education due to her eighteen years in captivity after a terrifying abduction aged just eleven, this an intriguing memoir covering the years of her confinement and her re introduction into society.

For a book covering such a long period of time I was surprised this book wasn't longer, but having said that I enjoyed - for want of a better phrase - the book and thought it was generally well told.

A follow up to this memoir would be welcomed to find out more Although written by a woman with limited education due to her eighteen years in captivity after a terrifying abduction aged just eleven, this an intriguing memoir covering the years of her confinement and her re introduction into society.

For a book covering such a long period of time I was surprised this book wasn't longer, but having said that I enjoyed - for want of a better phrase - the book and thought it was generally well told.

A follow up to this memoir would be welcomed to find out more of what has become since of the brave Jaycee and her two daughters. ...more
2

Jul 08, 2011

Let's be honest- this was more of a therapeutic assignment rather than anything else.

Initially I was interested in reading this because I wanted to know the 'complete' story. Unfortunately I felt that what I read I had read before in magazine articles. There was little new information. I felt like to go along with her recovery the author was given free range and told to most likely just 'writer her story'. While I can understand that it must have been quite hard for her I do feel that someone Let's be honest- this was more of a therapeutic assignment rather than anything else.

Initially I was interested in reading this because I wanted to know the 'complete' story. Unfortunately I felt that what I read I had read before in magazine articles. There was little new information. I felt like to go along with her recovery the author was given free range and told to most likely just 'writer her story'. While I can understand that it must have been quite hard for her I do feel that someone could have gone through and made it more 'user-friendly'.

I can understand that the author did not want her children's names revealed but at the same time they already were to the public via court documents and other media outlets. Towards the end of the book I did feel like I was just reading notes from her therapist's notebook on what exercises they practiced, how well she did and how she made the connections.

The story in itself is a sad one and we get that, we expect that. Therefore I feel there should probably have been a little more healing time before this book was published. Because as of now it simply comes off as rushed.

I'm not sure if the book was published before the author was awarded the 20 million dollars, but perhaps this was a way of trying to secure financial safety for her daughters' futures. ...more
4

Aug 06, 2011

A Stolen Life: A Memoir, by Jaycee Dugard, is a disturbing, yet heartwarming personal narrative of the author's abduction, at age 11, and her subsequent 18 year captivity in the backyard of Phillip and Nancy Garrido.

I listened to the audio version of the book, which was read by Jaycee. The prose is simple and direct, yet surprisingly eloquent, and her personal narration adds further emotion to an already poignant story.

The book does not attempt to provide an objective or journalistic account of A Stolen Life: A Memoir, by Jaycee Dugard, is a disturbing, yet heartwarming personal narrative of the author's abduction, at age 11, and her subsequent 18 year captivity in the backyard of Phillip and Nancy Garrido.

I listened to the audio version of the book, which was read by Jaycee. The prose is simple and direct, yet surprisingly eloquent, and her personal narration adds further emotion to an already poignant story.

The book does not attempt to provide an objective or journalistic account of the events surrounding the captivity. This is a personal story, and the focus is primarily on Jaycee's remembered experience. There is scant information regarding the physicality of her environment, or even the logistics of her day to day experience; the writing instead reflects the journey of a young girl who was forced to withdraw from the world. It is possible that this inward and subjective focus has affected the accuracy of recollected detail. For example, in the book we are told that during the early years of her captivity, Phillip was returned to federal prison for approximately 1 month for parole violation, when in actuality, it was closer to 5 months.

It should come as no surprise that Jaycee was subjected to extensive emotional and psychological disturbance. The book is clearly the work of a person who, through therapy, is slowly finding the freedom, and the strength, to reassert herself. In fact, I suspect the writing of the book formed a significant role in the recovery process - and it is probable that the composition of the narrative has been decidedly influenced by an attempt to make sense of past experiences.

The book is a fascinating account, not just for what is explicitly revealed, but also for what is implied, and omitted. For example, Jaycee's journal entries identifying top 10 "wishes" and "favourites" almost exclusively list experiences involving animals and open spaces, no doubt signifying her diminished human contact, and her desire to escape the claustrophobia of her captivity. In a similar vain, large tracts of the book focus on the many pets she kept over the years. On the surface, some readers may find these passages boring and mundane - and to a degree, they are - but such thinking also misses the point, for these passages offer a unique glimpse at how Jaycee strived to keep her sanity and identity in a world where her mind and body were totally dominated.

The story unfolds in three rather distinct phases. The first, covering her abduction, and the initial 6-7 years of captivity, is the most explicitly disturbing. At only age 11, we learn of the deep psychological wounds inflicted on Jaycee - separated from her family, handcuffed and isolated in a shed, and repeatedly raped by Phillip during drug-fuelled "runs" that would sometimes last for days on end.

The second phase, which commences with the birth of her second child, covers the remainder of her captivity. It is during this period that Phillip and Nancy partially assimilate Jaycee and her children into their pseudo family. Jaycee begins to work as a graphic designer for Phillip's printing business, and she is occasionally permitted to leave the house to go thrift store shopping with Nancy. There is no mention of continued sexual abuse, but Jaycee is still the victim of Phillip's psychological domination, deteriorating mental condition, and the target of his delusional religious notions. If you put the first half of the book and obvious oddities aside - such as Jaycee living in a tent in the backyard, and using a bucket for a toilet - you could almost be forgiven for thinking that sections of this second phase were not penned by an abused captive, but rather the stereotypical teenager - annoyed that she cannot drive, frustrated that she is under appreciated, angry that her "dad" is lazy, and resentful of her lack of freedom. Again, the fact that Jaycee elects to express this side of her experience is in itself informative, not to mention that this teenage angst was expressed whilst Jaycee was actually in her twenties.

The third phase of the book focuses on Jaycee's post-release therapy and recovery, and her transition back into society. The text is steep in self-help language, and flush with affirmations of growing confidence. This phase of the story provides Jaycee with an opportunity to mark out her own aspirations and to sketch her own identity apart from the psychological control of her past.

I am giving this book 4 stars out of 5. There are those that will undoubtedly see this as a slight against Jaycee, and a disrespect for the injustice she experienced. However, I do not consider past trauma or personal suffering as guarantors of perfect writing. Jaycee declares in the introduction that her account may seem confusing, or disordered, and while I do not consider it such, she does jump from memory to memory, at the expense of providing an well edited and balanced account. We learn little of the Garrido's, and less of the children; the environment in which they live is barely explored. Even short news articles from the period offer revelations that rival those presented in the book. For example I've read of a witness who saw Jaycee at a gas station, only a couple of years after her disappearance, standing motionless, staring at a "missing persons" picture of herself - presumably just one of the many significant moments omitted from the book. Though in many way, we should not be surprised: the torment began at such a young age, and continued for so many years, it's almost like the goal posts of normality never had a chance to stand, and as such, Jaycee lacked the reference points against which to provide a balanced account of her experience. I guess this is just another of the many rights that were so inhumanely stolen from her life the day she was taken away. ...more
2

Aug 22, 2011

What Jaycee Dugard experienced for 18 years is, beyond question, horrendous. And it is an achievement that her book keeps the sensationalism to a minimum, focusing rather on the more basic lines of thought of her young self. She is a clear writer, if overly simplistic.

However, as a memoir, if we are to take her unparalleled story aside, A Stolen Life does not amaze. Truly amazing memoirs are not made by the occurrences of the life it follows, but rather by the ability of the memoirist to What Jaycee Dugard experienced for 18 years is, beyond question, horrendous. And it is an achievement that her book keeps the sensationalism to a minimum, focusing rather on the more basic lines of thought of her young self. She is a clear writer, if overly simplistic.

However, as a memoir, if we are to take her unparalleled story aside, A Stolen Life does not amaze. Truly amazing memoirs are not made by the occurrences of the life it follows, but rather by the ability of the memoirist to transcend their experiences and explore deeper meanings, repercussions, and universality. Jaycee's story is worth being told, but the structure of the book (with its simple, chronological chapter structure and interspersed and somewhat repetitive "Reflections" sections) doesn't bring Jaycee's story beyond the visceral moment-by-moment trauma. Perhaps such exploration would take more distance from her experiences, or perhaps it is simply too painful. While A Stolen Life is absolutely a story worth telling, and hearing, it didn't awaken any deeper understandings or meanings for me beyond compassion for Jaycee. ...more
3

Jun 02, 2014

How can you not appreciate this book? Just stop for a second and think about yourself being in her situation. How can anyone survive being captive from age 11 for 18 years? I wanted to rate this book with 5 stars. But that wouldn't be honest, it would be out of sympathy. You really feel like a child wrote this book, but maybe this was the intention, because her formal education stopped when she was only 11 years old. The story jumps around a lot. I found it unnecessary when I read about all How can you not appreciate this book? Just stop for a second and think about yourself being in her situation. How can anyone survive being captive from age 11 for 18 years? I wanted to rate this book with 5 stars. But that wouldn't be honest, it would be out of sympathy. You really feel like a child wrote this book, but maybe this was the intention, because her formal education stopped when she was only 11 years old. The story jumps around a lot. I found it unnecessary when I read about all those pets she had and journey entries. I just don't know… I expected to feel her pain, rage, anger through reading this book. But I didn't, she made it too mellow. People that did this to her are disgusting and they don't deserve a nice word, but you don't get this feeling while reading this book. ...more
5

Jul 11, 2011

Jaycee Dugard's childhood was stolen from her, with this memoir, I hope it will give her and her daughters an opportunity to have a better life. I brought this book in support of Jaycee.
1

Jun 04, 2013

It's amazing how one person can be kept captive for 18 years and not a single soul even suspects anything amiss. This book is Jaycee Dugard's story of her life in captivity. The story telling is simplistic in keeping with the fact that she never got a chance to complete her school education. The book could have done with some editing if only to make the sentence structure better and more readable. The middle of the book is full of journal entries written by Jaycee during her captivity and some It's amazing how one person can be kept captive for 18 years and not a single soul even suspects anything amiss. This book is Jaycee Dugard's story of her life in captivity. The story telling is simplistic in keeping with the fact that she never got a chance to complete her school education. The book could have done with some editing if only to make the sentence structure better and more readable. The middle of the book is full of journal entries written by Jaycee during her captivity and some of the passages are quite poignant.

I would not really recommend this book because there are just too many stories about cats and dogs and not enough analysis of her own life or that of her captors. For instance, while I found her positive affirmations really impressive, how and why did she get the inspiration to be so positive in a negative environment? I also am a little hazy about why Phillip turned himself in and I find Nancy's role in the entire saga rather unfathomable. She obviously did not want Jaycee around, so why didn't she release her? These, and many more questions are left unanswered by the author.

I really feel for Jaycee's stolen life and hope she manages to get the help she needs and have a bright future, but I really did not need to read about her cats and dogs, page after page after page. As she herself says in the preface, come back to me in ten years time when I've figured things out better. Maybe that's a good idea. ...more
4

Jul 18, 2011

One of the hardest books I've ever read because of the subject matter. Dugard has been through hell and back. Her story is an inspiration to all who face some sort of adversity and want to give up. For 18 years, this woman was held captive, mentally & physically abused (the rape descriptions were the hardest parts to read), & impregnated twice. While she had moments of despair (who wouldn't?), she always held out hope that some day her life would improve. Even post-captivity, Dugard has One of the hardest books I've ever read because of the subject matter. Dugard has been through hell and back. Her story is an inspiration to all who face some sort of adversity and want to give up. For 18 years, this woman was held captive, mentally & physically abused (the rape descriptions were the hardest parts to read), & impregnated twice. While she had moments of despair (who wouldn't?), she always held out hope that some day her life would improve. Even post-captivity, Dugard has maintained an attitude that most could not. She refused - and refuses - to waste energy hating the people who stole her life. An amazing woman for sure. ...more
4

Jul 13, 2011

Having followed the Elizabeth Smart abduction, trial and consequences here in SLC, when I heard about what had happened to Jaycee Dugard, my heart went out to her big time and I've been fascinated to hear more about her story and to find out as much as possible about the case. As I finished up her book and take of her own life, I was amazed at how well she seems to have come out of it all and how well adjusted and loving she seems to be.

The book is pretty simple and straight forward. If you Having followed the Elizabeth Smart abduction, trial and consequences here in SLC, when I heard about what had happened to Jaycee Dugard, my heart went out to her big time and I've been fascinated to hear more about her story and to find out as much as possible about the case. As I finished up her book and take of her own life, I was amazed at how well she seems to have come out of it all and how well adjusted and loving she seems to be.

The book is pretty simple and straight forward. If you don't already know, she was kidnapped when she was 11 years old by a convicted rapist and pedophile and then kept in his compound for 18 years, undetected by his parole officers. During that time she was used as a sex slave and bore two daughters that she raised at the compound. It is clear that he was a manipulative, drugged out, selfish creep who totally controlled young submissive Jaycee in every way. He was married and it's also clear that his wife Nancy was also under his manipulative and controlling spell, because she did nothing to set Jaycee free or to stop the abuse.

So Jaycee lived through 18 years of living in a tent or other areas of the compound without a toilet or shower, raising two young children, being fed when Philip and or Nancy where in the mood to feed her and then, while she was still young enough to be sexually attractive to him, he would have a meth "run" and use her sometimes for several days in a row to perform various sexual acts, etc., after-which he would apologize and promise her it would be the last time.

She is such a sweet and innocent person. It almost seems as if she were still eleven years old when she wrote the story. She was genuinely worried whether her mother would accept her back because she had the two children. She was still confused at some of her feelings for Philip and still believed in much of the garbage he had fed her in his attempt to justify his behavior.

I'm glad it was written from this naive perspective. In the meantime, just as in the case with Elizabeth Smart, I personally feel that capital punishment would be called for and probably too nice. He deserves cruel and unusual punishment.

Reading the story brought out a bunch of thoughts: from the amazing resilience of the human spirit, to comparing her life to the lives of so many children who are and have been abused by their own parents, to what we as a society should do differently to get these animals off the streets. How many children out there are going through similar lives right now?

There's also a direct correlation to the horrible recent case of Warren Jeffs and how he controlled multiple wives, young girls God told him to marry and then the descriptions of his sexual exploits of these children all while his other wives watched on all naked, etc. Brother. Why are we so worried about the Taliban when similar folks are living close by?

I'm happy Jaycee made it through all of this. She is a miracle. I hope she will let us take part in her life in the future. I have my fingers crossed that all will go well for her.

I also have loved watching Elizabeth Smart blossom into one sharp, wonderful, human being. Amazing. ...more
4

Aug 25, 2016

Words cannot begin to describe the pain Jaycee Lee Dugard went through by the hands of the Garrido's, but this definitely comes close.

The narrative of Jaycee herself was harrowing at times but essentially poignant at others. This is a must read, but be warned you may need to rest up for a while after. My head is so all over the place.

It is a moving novel that has made me thankful for the childhood I had.
4

Jul 21, 2011


Anyone else getting "If I Die Young" vibes here?

Now, on a more serious note, the subject of kidnappings has driven me wild all my life. When I was a youngster (and I still am, but I mean when I was a young youngster), kidnappings were the stuff of nightmares for me. In kindergarten, I had a dream I was in class at a party at night, and when I went out into the hallway alone, this guy
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put me in a big black bag and carried me away into the night. I peed the bed that night and went into
Anyone else getting "If I Die Young" vibes here?

Now, on a more serious note, the subject of kidnappings has driven me wild all my life. When I was a youngster (and I still am, but I mean when I was a young youngster), kidnappings were the stuff of nightmares for me. In kindergarten, I had a dream I was in class at a party at night, and when I went out into the hallway alone, this guy
[image error]
put me in a big black bag and carried me away into the night. I peed the bed that night and went into my dad's bed crying.

Yeah. Kidnappings and I have a long (and indirect) history with each other. So, imagine my inevitable surprise when I'm surfing Goodreads one day and I find out that the eighteen-year-span kidnapping survivor had written a book. I knew nothing else of the world but the fact that I needed to read this book at some point in my life. This book would benefit me more than food after a three-day fast (which I've never participated in, by the way), not just to inform me more about what Jaycee went through but about how I need to get over my fears and come to terms with them.

This book did just that, and while it may not have the best writing I've ever read (actually, far from it) or the best structure (again, far from it), this book helped me to overcome something that kept me up at night. It helped me realize that stranger kidnappings are really rare, and if I were the target of one, I could escape. It's helped me become more secure in myself as a person and overcome my fears.

Hearing little tapping noises in the middle of the night would set my heart on full-panic mode, and I'd lie awake for hours thinking it was someone tapping a creepy, grimy fingernail on my window, peering in, waiting for me to come to them and let them take me away. In all reality, it might've been a mouse running through the walls, but I'd instantly set my mind on the worst and believe it to be true.

A STOLEN LIFE may not be the best book out there quality-wise, but if you're like me, it may help you overcome a challenge in life. ...more
5

Jul 15, 2011

This book is very difficult to read -- which may seem like an obvious statement -- but I did not expect to personally have such a hard time reading it, as I usually do not have trouble reading hard topics. I (cried but) breezed right through Room, The Lovely Bones, Diary of Anne Frank, and The Book Thief, and I expected to do the same with Jaycee's memoir. But this was the first time I actually had to put a book down and leave it for a while because I felt physically ill after reading certain This book is very difficult to read -- which may seem like an obvious statement -- but I did not expect to personally have such a hard time reading it, as I usually do not have trouble reading hard topics. I (cried but) breezed right through Room, The Lovely Bones, Diary of Anne Frank, and The Book Thief, and I expected to do the same with Jaycee's memoir. But this was the first time I actually had to put a book down and leave it for a while because I felt physically ill after reading certain chapters. I do feel this is an important book for people to read and certainly compelling, but I give you this forewarning so you know -- the abuse she suffers is perhaps even worse than you are expecting. Certain people with sensitivities to difficult topics probably should not read this book. The descriptions of sexual abuse are not overly-gratuitous -- Jaycee writes in a very simple yet straightforward manner -- but she does give details and and it is these simple descriptions that will haunt you. I think that is what makes her memoir so moving: she does not *need* to be a gifted writer to move her readers; she does not need smooth prose or poetic language. Her story is *that* heartbreaking all on its own, just in the simple, straight-forward details of her day-to-day living in her captor's hell.

Jaycee's memoir reads a lot like a diary (and she does include several pages of the journal she kept while in captivity): she writes as she remembers it, from the perspective of a confused & terrified 11-year old. At the end of most chapters, she includes a "Reflections" section where she provides more insight and analysis of what she went through. You can see the work of her therapy here and just how far she has come in the two years since her rescue, and perhaps starting to make meaning out of her experience and make sense of it all.

Perhaps what is most impressive -- besides the fact that she survived -- is how she does not harbor any hate, resentment or regret. Her story is truly a testament to living life in the now, living life to its fullest, and not taking any moments for granted. Her story is also a testament to the human spirit and just how much one person can endure and still triumph in the end.

She is quite simply and unbelievably REMARKABLE. ...more
5

Jun 14, 2016

I do not review this book for literary value and didn't "love" most of what I read. It took me several days to just get through her heartbreaking story. I give my five stars to amazing woman who endured what most of us can never fathom. As a mother and someone in the criminal justice field, it sickens me that a victim could be in plain view for so many years and never be noticed. I have nothing but deep admiration for Jaycee and the countless others victims whose stories we will never fully know I do not review this book for literary value and didn't "love" most of what I read. It took me several days to just get through her heartbreaking story. I give my five stars to amazing woman who endured what most of us can never fathom. As a mother and someone in the criminal justice field, it sickens me that a victim could be in plain view for so many years and never be noticed. I have nothing but deep admiration for Jaycee and the countless others victims whose stories we will never fully know or understand. Despite her age, so much of her manner is childlike and innocent, and I hope that she continues on her journey to recovery.

Favorite Quotes:
History has taught us that even when it looks like there is no hope, hope still lives in people's hearts.

My goal is to inspire people to speak out when they see that something is not quite right around them.
...more
0

Jul 25, 2011

I don't feel right rating this book. It is clearly written by Jaycee as a completely free agent. No ghostwriter, no dictation -- just her, a computer, old journals and her memories. I think she did a great job providing her readers with the raw, hard to read details. She feels no shame for what was done to her and I believe that is why she comes across as so mentally healthy in interviews and in this book. I'm proud of her.

I'm still left with a lot of questions: How is she so certain Phillip I don't feel right rating this book. It is clearly written by Jaycee as a completely free agent. No ghostwriter, no dictation -- just her, a computer, old journals and her memories. I think she did a great job providing her readers with the raw, hard to read details. She feels no shame for what was done to her and I believe that is why she comes across as so mentally healthy in interviews and in this book. I'm proud of her.

I'm still left with a lot of questions: How is she so certain Phillip did not sexually abuse her daughters? He was left alone with them very frequently and it seems many of those times he was left alone with the girls were at his suggestion for she and Nancy to go somewhere (stores, grocery, etc.). Her maternal connection seems thwarted. I don't begrudge her this. She was made a mom when she didn't want to become one. She was a child herself and never really grew. Her children were raised to believe she was their sister, not their mother. They slept inside the home while she slept outside in a tent by herself. How can you blame her for feeling a deeper connection to the animals that were in her presence all the time than for her own children? Its saddening but understandable.

Really really fascinating read. ...more

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