'A Stolen Life': The Best Autobiography In 2011
By Tommy Garrett
Jul 17, 2011 - 11:20:10 PM

BEVERLY HILLS—Jaycee Lee Dugard is a name that America knows quite well. During Dugard’s recent ABC News interview with Diane Sawyer and “Primetime Live,” we had the opportunity to see an extremely elegant, articulate and strong young woman. She told the story of an 11-year-old girl attacked by a convicted sexual predator with a stun gun, then kidnapped with the help of his wife and driven over 100 miles to their home in Northern California, where she faced 18 years of unthinkable sexual, emotional, verbal, physical and mental abuse. Dugard recently published a book about her ordeal titled “A Stolen Life.”

What is fascinating and very uplifting about the book is that after such an ordeal, which included giving birth to two beautiful daughters fathered by her sexual tormentor Phillip Garrido, Dugard managed to take her life back and is living it free of bitterness. When I first received a review copy of this book, I was concerned that it would be too difficult for me to read. Being an advocate for children myself, I could not imagine anyone being abused to that extent and still grow up to be a "normal" adult. However, Dugard may be even better than normal. She is a loving, caring mother, and despite all the media pressure and offers worth millions of dollars, she has kept her two daughters in seclusion and away from the prying eyes of the media.

“A Stolen Life” is a story that initially makes you cry with shame and fear, but as Dugard relives her torture and her pain, she gives the reader hope, encouragement and, most of all, the ability to possibly protect one’s own children. Readers learn a lot about how her life became a living hell just minutes after arriving at the Garrido’s home and how she managed to defy what we believe we could never handle or even survive. She calls herself a normal person. Perhaps she was at age 11 while walking on that desolate road going to meet the school bus. But what came after that moment in an innocent little girl’s life makes her much more extraordinary than she can even imagine herself being. Her modesty and integrity are exposed to the reader on every page of this book.

“Looking at the moon and imagining my mother’s face and her voice all of those years kept me sane and hoping that she’d never forget me,” said Dugard in an excerpt from her bestseller. And Dugard’s mother never forgot her daughter as she and several other neighbors gave up their jobs and searched for Jaycee for years. Her mother’s bitterness against the Garridos is normal and understandable. Her ire at the federal and state of California’s parole system is justifiable as well. They made over 60 trips to the house and never searched the backyard, where Dugard lived in squalor, even giving birth for the first time at age 14 alone and locked in a shed. Dugard describes instant love for her daughters when they were born. She didn't feel all alone in the world anymore.

What comes across in this book is that this is a 31-year-old lady who harbors no delusions of victimization. She refuses to hate her captors and wants them in jail for life so that they are unable to do to anyone else what they did to her. She says it best: “I don’t think of myself as a victim. I survived.”

“A Stolen Life” is a book that every parent in America should read. Not only because it gives caution to parents and advice on protecting their children but because it gives a mesmerizing and fascinating story that could have ended in tragedy had Phillip and Nancy Garrido been able to take away this little girl’s soul. They may have stolen her innocence, but her soul remained steadfast, and the love she shares today for her mother and her daughters is contagious. Prepare yourself as a reader to cry, but to cry tears of pride and joy for who this young woman became despite years of horror. “A Stolen Life” is forever etched in my mind, and it will become a historical document in the realm of Helen Keller’s stories and lectures. Jaycee Dugard becomes an American hero in this book, even though she desperately tries to paint herself as an everyday person.

“A Stolen Life” is available wherever books are sold.

Photograph is Courtesy: The Publisher

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